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Lone Survivor

April 4, 2014

Lone SurvivorMarcus Luttrell

Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, a SEAL Team 10 member, and the sole survivor of Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan recounts one of the most tragic special operations losses in US history. The description of the events in the lone survivor’s voice convey the horror and emotion of the situation from his perspective.

The book begins with the fateful SEAL team enroute to Afghanistan aboard a military aircraft and frequently flashes back to the author’s life leading up to present time. His desire to become a Navy SEAL was a lifelong dream that he prepared and trained for long before even joining the Navy. A large section in the middle of the book described in great detail all the physical training and endurance of cold and pain that is required of successful candidates to become Navy SEALs. My favorite quote that the author attributed to an instructor “the body can take nearly any abuse, it’s the mind that needs to be trained”.

A single decision started in motion the events leading up to the death of 19 US soldiers: the decision to let a group of local goat herders leave after they had stumbled upon the SEAL team’s position. The soldiers were torn between the obvious strategic mistake of letting any locals know of their presence (since they were a 4 man unit) versus the threat of being labeled ruthless murders by their own country. Sadly, the let the locals leave unharmed and their presence was revealed to hostile forces in the area which lead to the battle this book describes in great detail.

The silver lining in the story, if you can see it that way, is the protection of this lone American soldier surrounded by hostile forces provided by local Afghanis. Pashtunwali (lohkay) is unwritten code adhered to by traditional Pashtun people that a guest must be protected at all costs. Under the threat of imminent death by Taliban forces these armed villagers defended a foreign soldier because of an ethical code of honor.

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