By Richard Larsen
What would you say to someone who placed themselves in peril to save your life? Are there any words adequate to express the deepest, heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for someone willing to sacrifice their life so that yours could be preserved? These are undoubtedly some of the introspective questions Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell ponders these days.
Petty Officer First Class Luttrell was the lone survivor of SEAL Special Forces Team 10 which was on a covert mission two years ago looking for a terrorist leader in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan. They crossed paths with three locals, and, exemplifying the morality and decency of those who serve wearing the American military uniform, allowed the three civilians to leave, even though by so doing their mission and their lives may be compromised.
Within an hour the four SEALs were surrounded by a hundred Taliban fighters. In the ensuing battle, all four soldiers, Luttrell, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz, and Matthew Axelson, were badly injured. Unable to secure a signal to radio in their location for reinforcements, Lt. Michael Murphy moved to higher ground, exposing himself to the lethal barrage of bullets being hurled at them by the terrorists. Murphy was able to get a radio signal and successfully called in their location, but was hit by several bullets while doing so. He even ended his call with a â€œthank you,â€ before he terminated the call and began moving to shelter from the hail of bullets. That was the last time his team members saw him alive.
Regrettably, the chopper sent to rescue the surviving team members was shot down, killing all sixteen on board. The enemy then overwhelmed the remaining SEALs, killing all but Marcus Luttrell, who, in spite of dehydration, a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs, and several cracked vertebrae, was able to amble seven miles on foot where a friendly village fed him, cleaned his wounds, and protected him. With the assistance of one villager, Luttrell was able to get a message to a Marine outpost which successfully extracted him from the midst of enemy territory. The protection afforded by the friendly village led Luttrell to later tell The Washington Post, â€œIn the middle of everything evil, in an evil place, you can find goodness. Goodness. Iâ€™d even call it godliness.â€ Luttrell recounts his experience in a recently published book, â€œLone Survivor.â€
For his heroic efforts to save his fellow SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor afforded our living and fallen heroes. At a ceremony this week where President Bush presented the award to his surviving parents declaring, â€œWith this medal, we acknowledge a debt that will not diminish with time and can never be repaid.â€ Accepting the medal for his son, Dan Murphy declared, â€œWhile Iâ€™m crying inside and my heartâ€™s breaking, my chest is puffed out and Iâ€™m saying, my son, this is what he did and I hope the country appreciates it and realizes it.â€
We all should appreciate and realize the inexplicable personal sacrifice and commitment made by these brave souls who place themselves in harms way to reduce the possibility that we will be. Whether or not we object ideologically to the conflict they are or have been engaged in, all the way from World War I through Vietnam and contemporary Iraq, we are the beneficiaries of their commitment to preserve our way of life, our freedoms, and our security. Those who fight the terrorists who have vowed to convert or destroy us make the same, if not greater commitment since they volunteer, as those who fought the Nazis of World War II, or those who fought the communists in Vietnam. The enemies are no less real today than they were then.
These men and women who serve in the military exemplify the standard by which our culture and society should ascribe the appellation of â€œhero.â€ Are there exceptions to this standard? Of course, but â€œexceptionâ€ is the operative term. They all volunteer for this duty which is all-too-often a thankless job; maligned by some, disrespected by others, not sufficiently appreciated by many of us.
Some of us either couldnâ€™t or didnâ€™t serve in the military yet are sometimes criticized as being â€œchicken hawksâ€ when we praise our soldiers for their efforts in our behalf. Such logic is specious at best, for almost all of us support education and law enforcement, and are beneficiaries of the service and commitment of teachers and policemen who competently and capably perform their duties. Can one only be an avid advocate of education or law enforcement if we are teachers or policemen ourselves? The concept is ludicrous. For as Cicero said, â€œGratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.â€ All of us should be ardent supporters of those who commit to protect and serve us, praying for their successful completion of their mission and safe return home.
Famous athletesâ€™ fame is fleeting, and their actions off the field of competition rarely match their prowess on the field. Actors and musicians can act, sing, and dance, but all too frequently, their antics in their private lives prove a dearth of true character making them hardly worthy of emulation. Our military personnel, however, volunteer to serve their nation, protect our liberties, and vanquish those who seek our overthrow or destruction. Where better to look for contemporary heroes, men and women deserving of elevating to hero emulation status, than in the ranks of our military. Not just for our young people, but for all of us.
Their sacrifices, sometimes including the ultimate sacrifice, are made for all of us who are Americans. Regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation, they serve us all willingly, capably, and nobly. For such they warrant our admiration, respect, support, and utmost gratitude.
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