"Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with."
-- Brodi Ashton
For almost 75 minutes, nearly 1,600 of us sat spellbound hearing him tell his story. It was like we were frozen in place as he walked us through his journey from his home in Houston, Texas to that fateful day nearly 30 years later in Afghanistan.
The speaker was Marcus Luttrell. And though it was several weeks ago in the Lancaster Convention Center that Evie and I heard him, the echoes of his message still remain with us. How grateful we are for the hospitality of Dr. Mike Myers and his wife, Cathy, for inviting us to join them for the third annual Remember America speaker series banquet for Dayspring Christian Academy where Mike is the headmaster.
While still in high school a neighbor named Sheldon, who was somewhat unstable, taught Marcus and his friends how to be disciplined if they were ever going to make a mark in the world.
In addition to that early discipline, Luttrell spoke of the hard work and the commitment and the ability to endure pain... all for the greater good of developing the tools and character needed to become a Navy SEAL. His training in the Navy moved him to the elite status of the best of the best. He survived Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training where more persons die in training than they do in combat.
His training there was brutal on his 6 foot 5 inch frame. But after that, he also attended Army jump school. He spent an additional six months of advanced training in conventional and unconventional medical skills, ranging from diagnosis and treatment of many conditions to advanced medicine and battlefield life support.
All of that preparation was put to the test "on a clear night in late June 2005 when four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission was to capture or kill a notorious al-Qaeda leader believed to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold surrounded by a small but heavily armed force. Less than 24 hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive."
On that night three fellow SEALs, Michael P. Murphy, Danny P. Dietz, Matthew G. Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell took their position on a hillside overlooking the village where their target was staying. And as they were making their final preparations to proceed with their mission, they were taken by absolute surprise when some random goat herders discovered them. Since they were civilians, they let them go.
But what followed would change their lives forever. Within two hours they were ambushed by over 20 of their target's men. In graphic language, Luttrell described the intense ambush which came from all three sides and included fire from PK machine guns, AK-47's, RPG-7's and 82mm mortars.
As Luttrell told his story, we felt like we were right there on that hillside. After several hours of battle and many moments of agonizing response and counter response, three of the four team members were killed along with the 16 members of his team who later attempted a helicopter rescue. The lone survivor, Luttrell, was left unconscious with many broken bones, a broken back, numerous shrapnel wounds and later a gunshot wound. It was only with the help of some local Pashtun villagers, interrupted by more than a day of indescribable Taliban torture, that he would eventually be rescued.
For the rest of the story, I can't wait to read his book, The Lone Survivor (2007) which he autographed to Evie and me at a reception after his presentation. In 2006 Luttrell was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism by President George W. Bush.
As Brad Meltzer said, "We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day."
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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