Surrounded and severely outnumbered in combat, you can either give up or fight to the death. Petty Officer Luttrell and three other SEALs faced that decision in the hills of Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. A SEAL never gives up.
The team, which included Lt. Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Matt Axelson and Danny Dietz, had been sent on a covert mission to find and kill a Taliban leader. As the SEALs scoured the area, they encountered three civilians who Luttrell believes alerted Taliban fighters. About an hour later, approximately 80-100 Taliban fighters appeared and began a ferocious assault. As the small team fought back, a Chinook helicopter arrived in support – but was shot down by the enemy, killing all 16 men on board.
The SEALs realized that their odds of survival were slim – but their training and sense of honor told them to take out as many enemies as they could. By the end of a two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Axelson, and Dietz had fallen. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead. Luttrell managed to escape the carnage – badly injured – and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff.
Dehydrated, with a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs, three vertebrae cracked; the situation for Luttrell was grim. Rescue helicopters were sent in, but he was too weak and injured to make contact. Traveling seven miles on foot, he eventually reached a village where he was put under “lokhay warkawal,” Afghan for the protection of the villagers, who fed him and cleaned his wounds. In short order, one of the villagers made his way to a Marine outpost with a note from Luttrell, and U.S. forces launched a massive rescue operation that pulled him from enemy territory. To this day, Luttrell remains indebted to the villagers who risked their lives in his defense. As he told The Washington Post, “In the middle of everything evil, in an evil place, you can find goodness. Goodness. I’d even call it godliness.”
Luttrell was the “Lone Survivor” of the events of June 28, 2005. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.