One Navy SEAL's Tale of Survival

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Navy SEALs are among the elite of America's military forces and have been used extensively in the war on terror.

In 2005, eleven SEALs died in a fierce battle with the Taliban, along with eight other Americans.

Only one SEAL, Marcus Luttrell, made it out alive. He told his amazing story of survival to CBN News.

"It was tougher than I thought it would be," he said. "I didn't have any idea of what I was getting myself into."

And Luttrell definitely had no idea what lay ahead on that June day in Afghanistan.

The Navy dropped Luttrell and three other SEALs into the mountains, including Lt. Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz.

They were to capture or kill the Taliban leader who commanded Osama bin Laden's army.

"Some of the guys were getting the 'Okay, something's not right here' feeling - the uneasy feeling. But it was still business as usual," Luttrell said.

It was business as usual until the mission was compromised. Luttrell says two men and a boy out walking their herd discovered them.

"Obviously, this was a critical situation that we were put in," he said.

The question now was what to do with the Afghans. After a tough debate, the SEAL team decided to turn them loose.

"In my heart of hearts, they didn't have any firearms or anything like that," Luttrell said. "But there was always that chance they could have come back and killed us all. So, yeah, I wanted to take them out, but we can't. That's not the way we are, so, we turned them loose."

About an hour later, Taliban and al-Qaeda forces ambushed the men - four against 150 fierce mountain fighters.

"I mean they completely encircled us, like they knew exactly where we were at," Luttrell recalled. "It was amazing to watch it unfold. I kind of wish I was on the other end of it. We were surrounding the enemy, but it wasn't like that. We were watching them surround us."

After intense fighting, the four killed about a hundred of the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

But in the end, the ambush was too much. They ran out of ammunition.

"We were talking back and forth the whole time, and a bullet would come down range and either zip past our heads or zip through one of the guys," Luttrell said.

"Inevitably, each one of the guys succumbed to their own wounds. There wasn't any time where the guy just sat down and was like, 'This is it, it's over. I've been shot too many times.' That never happened," he said.

Hope emerged in the form of a rescue helicopter but a Taliban rocket shot it down, killing all 16 American service members on board.

Luttrell was alone and wounded in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.

"I got hit by an RPG. shrapnel from my knees down. Three vertebrae in my back were busted up on both sides; the facets on the back side; torn rotator cuff. Then I got shot in the back, the back of my leg, and there are multiple other injuries," Luttrell said.

Amazingly, Luttrell managed to crawl to an Afghan village. But instead of being killed, the villagers protected the Navy SEAL from the Taliban. A 2000-year-old tribal law was in Marcus Luttrell's favor.

"Their tradition was once someone comes into their camp, and they need assistance, and they offer up assistance," he said. "Then they're going to fight to the death to make sure that they get that done. And they did."

Five days later, American forces rescued Luttrell. He went on to receive the prestigious Navy Cross for valor from President Bush. The President awarded posthumously Luttrell's team leader, Lt. Murphy, the nation's highest award for bravery -- the Medal of Honor.

"With complete disregard for his own life, he moved into a clearing where his phone would get reception," Bush said at the Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House. "He made the call, and Michael then fell under heavy fire. Yet his grace and upbringing never deserted him. Though severely wounded, he said 'thank you' before hanging up and returned to the fight before losing his life."

The other Seals in the four-man team -- Petty Officers Axelson and Dietz -- were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

"I was the biggest and slowest, so I can't give you an explanation as to why, when I took one step and went the other way and someone put their foot right behind me, they'd get shot," Luttrell said. "Trust me. It plays over in my head 30 seconds out of every minute of every day."

Luttrell says he talked to God while in battle and prayed that he would survive so that the courage of his comrades would not be forgotten.

"I made a promise to my guys, when I came to, and I crawled inside that mountain," he said. "I was just like, 'Hey, You get me out of here, and I'll tell everybody how brave these guys fought. I said that, and I was like, I'll get out of here just to do that. I was like, 'I ain't going to die out here, no way.'"

Luttrell chronicles the experience in the book, Lone Survivor, a New York Times bestseller. The book has struck a chord with both men and women.

Luttrell says it's all about honoring his fallen brothers.

"What they did and the sacrifice they made, like I said, the book's about them."

 

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.