Blog Your Blessings: Lone Survivor
This summer I read a remarkable book about a young man who tests the limits of human endurance and then exceeds them--in the name of down-home decency that sometimes bears the names of loyalty, friendship, patriotism. It is the story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor. Shortly after I read it, I wrote this:
I never have served in the military, but I sure do like the people I know who have. To a man, they are honest, direct, clear, courteous, true, and good. They are people of integrity who don't mess around and who genuinely honor life.
Lone Survivor is a book by a person who embodies integrity along with substantial doses of courage and strength and intelligence. Author Marcus Luttrell is the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, a military mission involving four U.S. Navy Seals tasked with finding, capturing, or killing a Taliban leader in the lunar terrain of Afghanistan.
Luttrell's book takes ample time to describe the intense, rigorous training of SEALs and to describe the operation itself. In a nutshell: you do what your told, you give it everything. No bullshit.
This resonated with me. It made me think of all those men I know who have served in the armed forces. They are not afraid of saying right is right and wrong is wrong and saying which is which lest anybody become confused. They are not men who ponder the nuances of grey.
Until they have to. Which is what happened to Luttrell more than once in the miserable, unyielding mountains of Afghanistan. Faced with grey, with choices that are not clear cut, Luttrell and his colleagues think through to the most logical choice. In seconds.
These guys face the complexity of all their interactions with others on the battlefield with the same concise, direct courage. Luttrell finds good guys amid the shale. Sweet kids. Honorable people who help him survive. He finds evildoers. And he's not afraid to tell you he hates them.
Reading this book, I realized that a good piece of what I admire about Luttrell and basically the men I know who have served is that they don't make excuses for evil. They get rid of it. That's exciting.
I have thought a lot about this book since I have read it. And I think that is what I like best because it gives me hope and teaches me courage.
Finally, I am grateful to Luttrell for making sense of what makes no sense to me when I read the paper. I am grateful for his honesty and his very clear vision.
His story taught me that for all I know, I don't know a lot. There's always more to learn. I suppose it's an attitude of humility. Lately as I have been trying to make sense of so many things going on in our country that I think have tested the limits of decency and compromised the quality of discourse on issues that affect all of us, I have thought how important it is to listen and learn, to honor the system that rare people like Marcus Luttrell fight with everything they have to defend. To pledge anew our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor.