On Tuesday January 13, 2014, I went to the matinee here in Broomfield at the AMC Theater in the Orchard Mall to see the movie Lone Survivor. Having read the book and also read SEAL of Honor, as well as seeing the documentary Murph: The Protector, I was well versed in the events I was about to see. The starkness of the imagery and the savagery of the events made for a tearful afternoon.
What is Lone Survivor?
The movie depicts the events that transpired in a military reconnaissance that was known as Operation Red Wings. Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, who is the lone survivor. Taylor Kitsch plays Lieutenant Michael Murphy who was the commander of the operation; Ben Foster plays Matthew Axelson while Emile Hirsch plays Danny Dietz. Another character who is pivotal to the entire movie is played by Eric Bana as Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen. Director Peter Berg has skillfully portrayed a very moving and sad historical event that was conversely filled with teamwork, courage, and humanity.
To completely understand this movie, you have to realize that the Navy SEALS are the most elite warriors we have in our military arsenal. The movie credits begin with scenes from SEAL training classes. The BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training is so intense that only a small percentage of those who begin a SEAL class actually complete it and receive their SEAL trident. The training is both physical and psychological to break down the spirit and rebuild and replace it with a new spirit of team supremacy. You would rather die than let down your brothers on your team! These men are the best the United States can field, and they are the tip of our anti-terrorist spear in the War on Global Terrorism.
Operation Red Wings
Operation Red Wings was an attempt to eradicate a Taliban terrorist who was building IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) for the sole purpose of killing American soldiers. The terrorist in question was one Amad Shah who was one of Osama Bin Ladin’s main captains in Afghanistan. The initial planning for this operation had a four-man SEAL team dropped into the Hindu Kush mountain range above the village where Amad Shah was thought to operate. The operation was put off on a couple of occasions because a visual identification of Shah could not be verified. The operation was finally given the go ahead, and on June 27, 2005, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson were airlifted to their initial dropzone.
The original plan had the SEAL team being dropped on the landing zone as the chopper touched down. Instead the team had to repel down from grappling lines suspended from the chopper. One line became tangled about around some bushes and had to be cut from the chopper so that it could proceed back to base. This forced the SEAL team to cover up the rope with bushes and underbrush to avoid detection. At this point the SEAL team started up the mountain to get into their observation positions. There were specified times that the team was due to check-in with base to make sure that everything was proceeding smoothly. Initial problems with the radio that was manned by Danny Dietz forced Mike Murphy to use his satellite cell phone (an unrestricted line) to contact the main base. It was at this point that the team decided to continue up the mountain to get into a better observation and communication position to overlook the village.
The HUMAN Decision
Once further up the mountain each of the four SEALS established their own observation position and hunkered down to wait until they had visual of Amad Shah. It was at this point that three goat-herders stumbled upon the SEAL team. The acting of Wahlberg, Kitsch, Hirsch, and Foster really personifies a team spirit that was apparent throughout the book. These men all cared about each other and were put in a situation where they had to make an incredible decision. Although all of the team had input, it was Michael Murphy who made the final decision. This was the pivotal point in the movie. The choices discussed were:
- Terminate the Compromise.
- Tie them up and leave them to continue the operation.
- Let them go.
Michael Murphy showed utmost humanity when he ordered that their prisoners should be released.
Within an hour the attack had begun that would cost three of the four their lives. The movie has been attacked as conservative propaganda but that is not the case. The depiction of real events that were already written and described in a book that is five years old cannot be considered to have a political bias. Also, there is no racial prejudice in this movie. It has to be remembered that the country of Afghanistan is being ripped by a civil war. Those who support the Taliban and Al Qaeda are on one side, while those who oppose these forces are on the other side working with our forces. These are all ethnic Afghanis and in this situation there are groups that are with us and there are groups that are against us. The SEAL team could have terminated the goat-herders, but they did not. Marcus Luttrell is alive because he was protected by the members of an Afghani village that were anti-Taliban.
I encourage everyone to see this movie. Make up your own mind about whether it is political or not. Make up your own mind if there’s any racism involved. The best way to do this is to see Lone Survivor for yourself. There is one thing that is a certainty: Murphy, Dietz, Luttrell, Axelson, Kristensen and all of the men who died on the helicopter rushing to help after Murphy’s poignant call are American heroes who should never be forgotten. They all fought to protect us from any and all future 9/11’s.