To hear Marcus Luttrell tell his unbelievable story of survival — in his own words — is nothing short of life-changing. The tale when relayed by words written in ink on paper, while still incredible, pales in comparison to personally hearing the story from the man who was actually there, who actually lived it.
Yet the former Navy SEAL, who has given everything but his life in service of his country, will still try to convince you he is no hero.
After hearing his story live, though, it’s hard to agree.
Below, we give you an inside look at Luttrell’s nationwide “Patriot Tour” and the opportunity to hear one of the most amazing true stories as told in the words of its author for the very first time. Each relevant section is followed by audio captured by TheBlaze of Luttrell giving his first-hand account at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, Texas, on Aug. 3, 2013.
Speaking to a mesmerized audience in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Luttrell — in vivid detail — relived the hell he experienced during Operation Redwing, a now-infamous 2005 special-ops mission conducted near the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Four U.S. Navy SEALs set out on the mission, but only one of them made it out alive.
The SEAL team was tasked with monitoring the movements of an Al Qaeda leader believed to be close with Osama bin Laden. Their mission, Luttrell explained during his nationwide “Patriot Tour,” was compromised. What ensued was one of the most intense firefights in the history of the Navy SEALs.
“I’ve been in plenty of gun fights, but nothing like that,” Luttrell told a crowd of hundreds at the Majestic Theater.
The SEAL team was taking heavy gunfire from the Taliban fighters when the self-made support system preventing Luttrell from plunging down the mountainous terrain gave way, sending him “rag-dolling” out of control.
“It was like somebody opened up a trap door underneath me, and I just fell right out of it,” Luttrell explained. “I started flipping down out of control and pin-balling down those trees.”
On his way down, Luttrell smashed into one of his fellow SEALs, Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy (“Murph”), at full speed, sending both of them tumbling. After “about 150 meters of that,” the two hit the ground. Luttrell suffered a broken back from the fall while Murph smashed his face.
But the worst wasn’t even close to over.
As soon as they sat up, the Taliban fighters pelted them with RPGs, mortar rounds and “everything else they had.” Luttrell said their world literally “just started blowing up” around them.
But they had to move quickly and get in place so they could engage the enemy. After finding an area to set up behind some large logs, Luttrell spotted another one of his SEAL team members, Petty Officer Second Class Matthew “Axe” Axelson, in his peripherals. “Axe was running down our left flank towards us…he took a round and they shot him in the back, came out his left rib, dropped him on his face,” he said.
It was clear that Axe was shot in the lung because he was bleeding through his mouth, Luttrell noted. However, he didn’t say a word to anyone. He just picked up his weapon and engaged the men who shot him.
The last SEAL to come tumbling down from the spot where they first set up was Petty Officer Second Class Danny Dietz. “We thought he was dead,” Luttrell recalled. Miraculously, he sat up and attempted to reach the rest of his team. However, he was unable to make it the entire distance, so Luttrell went to him and carried him the rest of the way.
One by one, Luttrell would witness his fellow SEALs, his brothers, die at the hands of enemy combatants.
Arguably the most heartbreaking memory Luttrell shared on Saturday was that of his unsuccessful attempt to rescue Murph after he got holed up in an embankment. Luttrell desperately tried to climb back up the way he came, the rocks tearing apart the skin on his hands in the process. “I just couldn’t get up there,” he said, a moment after his voice started to crack.
“And then he started screaming my name,” he told the audience in the dead silent auditorium. “It was so terrible. I have never heard anything scream like that…It was so terrible that I actually set my rifle down on my knees and covered my ears because I couldn’t stand to hear him die.”
Eventually, the screaming stopped.
The Lone Survivor
Luttrell, the lone survivor, suffered several fractures, shrapnel wounds, a broken back and a gunshot wound during a nightmarish ordeal that dragged on for four days. With an unbelievable will to survive, he defied all odds and evaded near-certain death.
Even when it seemed like the situation couldn’t possibly get worse, it did.
The Taliban militants were still on his tail when a pair of RPGs nearly took him out. The blasts blew Luttrell feet away and rendered him unconscious. When he came to, he realized that he was paralyzed from the waist down, cutting his tough odds of survival even further.
The SEAL warrior would crawl for miles across the treacherous terrain with a broken back and debilitating paralysis, refusing to lay down and die. The injuries would prove to be yet another obstacle he would need to overcome in his seemingly impossible quest to get back home to Texas.
Luttrell also received some unexpected, and vital, help from local villagers who actively hid him from the Taliban. The village, he said, would help anyone who asked for food, drink or safety — even if they hated everything that person stood for. And they would risk the entire village to uphold that tradition.
“They’ll sacrifice the whole village just for one man. I’ve never seen anything like that,” Luttrell said. “The only [other] place on the planet that does that is Texas.”
The villagers were eventually able to establish contact with the nearest U.S. military base and arrange for the badly injured Navy SEAL’s rescue. He would spend a “long time” in the hospital getting “pieced back together,” but he was alive.
He would later discover that 16 other U.S. soldiers who attempted a daring rescue were also killed. “War is hell,” he reflected earlier in the show.
Luttrell, Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson were awarded the prestigious Navy Cross for their actions in the 2005 operation. Michael Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor
Before he ended the show, Luttrell left the audience with some words of wisdom.
“Don’t waste one second on anything. Watch the sun come up and watch it go down,” Luttrell added. “Every time I get off the phone with one of my friends, I tell them I love them. Now, I don’t have a problem with that anymore. I want them to know.”
Luttrell spent a total of eight years in the U.S. Navy, returning to combat even after Operation Redwing, before a serious injury forced him to retire.
The Patriot Tour also features retired Capt. Chad Fleming, who was wounded in combat on three separate occasions and required a trans-tibial amputation of his left leg; Debbie Lee, the mother of Marc Alan Lee, the first Navy SEAL to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom; slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s widow Taya Kyle and country singer Mary Sarah.
A film adaption of Luttrell’s best-selling book, “Lone Survivor,” hits theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on Dec. 27 and in the rest of the U.S. on Jan. 10. Actor Mark Wahlberg plays Luttrell in the film.
‘I Am a Patriot’
In an exclusive follow-up interview with TheBlaze, Luttrell said it is an emotionally and physically exhausting experience to relive the worst week of his entire life. “No sane-minded person wants to do that,” he said.
So why does he do it?
“I’ve heard that people, after they hear my story — it changes their life or motivates them to do other things and it shows them that they can get through anything,” Luttrell told TheBlaze. “If just one person can take something away from what I said, it was worth it. That’s what I keep falling back on.”
He continued: “When I get up there and tell that story, I relive it in my head. I don’t have any notes, it’s all from memory. I get scared, I get angry, I get emotional. And then after I get done talking, I hit the wall.”
Luttrell told us he has never told his story in such a public setting prior to the Patriot Tour.
Just as he did on stage in Dallas, Luttrell reiterated that he not a “hero” — a point that this author silently objected to.
“I’m a patriot,” he added. “I fight for my country. A patriot is someone who spends most of their life trying to help other people and not themselves. And that’s kind of the way I look at it.”
The Patriot Tour was originally the brainchild of Luttrell and slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.
“Now, that would have been something,” he said of the prospect.
This story has been updated with additional information.