Ernest Hemingway once wrote that “There is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.” Let me flip that around: there is, in fact, no fear as deep as the fear of being hunted. Those who experience this fear find, later in life, that they never have reason to be afraid of anything else.
Marcus Luttrell is the Navy Seal who survived Operation Redwing and wrote about it in Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 (my review of that book is also on this blog), which many Americans probably only know about because Mark Wahlberg portrayed Luttrell in the movie. After recovering from injuries sustained during that operation, Luttrell returned to service and once again deployed to a war zone.
There’s a photo of servicemen that makes its rounds on the internet with a caption that reads, “Superheroes don’t wear capes, they wear dogtags.” After reading Luttrell’s second book, I couldn’t agree more. After what he survived during and after Operation Redwing, one thing my brain simply cannot process is that he returned to service. Blows my mind every time I think about it. To live through what he did and to return to it, knowing full well what dangers he could very likely face again, to me that makes him one helluva an American hero. (And he would probably disagree with that statement, but it doesn’t make it any less true).
His second book is a great tribute to all those who serve, not just members of special operations units. Luttrell’s Service: A Navy Seal at War teaches the reader how different groups within the military support one another and work together to plan and carry out missions. He delves into the warzone of Ramadi and explains how Seals worked with the Army, the Marines, and the Air Force to drive the Taliban from the city and unite Iraqis into a population who worked towards a similar goal: taking back their city from the Al Qaeda. He explains how pilots on the ground with the troops coordinate with fighter pilots in the air to direct aerial firepower where it will hurt the enemy the most and have the greatest possible impact.
Luttrell’s knowledge of operations is extensive, making his book very informative and educational. I had no idea what the real situation was in Ramadi because, as Luttrell points out, you can’t rely on anything the media tells you when it comes to war. I was amazed at how much planning goes into rescue missions and how many planes, helicopters, and ground forces work together to locate and rescue servicemen. The amount of risk taken by Parajumpers (PJs) and other units who undertake these missions of rescue or recovery is tremendous. The dedication of these individuals saves lives. They risk themselves so that the credo of “leave no man behind” can always ring true.
The slogan of the PJ community is THESE THINGS WE DO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE. Without exception, that selfless spirit applies to the whole lot of them. And, in a deep sense, that motto is lived out by all who serve with their lives on the line. Why do we do it? We do it for others, so that they may carry out their duties, serve their missions, serve their comrades, serve their nation, and go on to live the good lives they deserve.
I think the greatest lesson I took away from this book was the brotherhood that exists between all those who serve whether they are Navy, Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force. They have lived through situations and horrors that no civilian can imagine. Through trial and loss, they’ve become a family with ties deeper than blood. It’s something people outside the service can’t understand and will never have themselves. And it’s something that continues long after their combat days are over. Currently, Luttrell continues his commitment to his country and his brothers through his organization Lone Survivor Foundation which supports the recovery of combat warriors and their families. http://lonesurvivorfoundation.org
I recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of how our military works and how these great men and women sacrifice so much to protect their brothers, their family, and their country.