Woman to Women
SEALed with a Kiss
Life lessons from an officer and a gentleman
-Mary Beth Sammons
Mention Navy SEALs in a room filled with woman, and you need say nothing else. Hot. Hot. Hot. These guys are specials forces in the military and among women across the planet.
So, imagine my lucky day when donning my very conservative black suit motif, I am seated at the head table of Chicago’s 125-year-old landmark Union League Club surrounded by a sea of more than a hundred men in uniform. Across from me, at this Who’s Who of Chicago, is Leading Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor: the Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10, which is now a national best seller.
This author and six-foot-five-inch Texan has gathered a crowd of officers and gentlemen (and only a handful of women) from all ranks of the military to share his story blow-by-blow to the other guys, the story of the fated days in Afghanistan, where he and his warrior-elite comrades fought a monstrous battle against the Taliban.
Did I drool? Did I carefully disguise my gawking, and summon up all my grace and surrender to the power and mystery of all these gorgeous macho men around me? Could I feel the pulse of my cell phone vibrating in my purse – enquiring girlfriends wanting to know every detail of my noontime tryst to testosterone land, surrounded by so many smart, sexy men, as opposed to the midlife-crisis, big-gut guys at the YMCA. When would I ever be among such raw heroism again?
Shaking myself and stabbing my haricot vert with my fork, I focused on my purpose as reporter of the event and pondered potential writing assignments on the frontlines. Foreign correspondent? Newsletter editor for the Navy SEALs in Coronado? I can swim!
So, here’s the story Marcus shared for the next hour, beginning his talk with the caveat “This feels funny, I’m usually sitting on the bar stool telling this to the guys,” and punctuating his conversation with apologies to the “ladies” whenever he said something like “dang” in conversation, plus some take away tips to help inspire you on days when you need a kick-start.
The story: On a stark mountaintop in Afghanistan in 2005, Luttrell and three of his closest friends and Navy SEAL teammates landed behind enemy lines in a quest to capture a Taliban kingpin. Their whereabouts were discovered, and all but Luttrell were killed. It happened right in front of him. Also killed were 16 would-be rescuers – eight additional SEALs and eight Army special-operations soldiers whose helicopter was shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade. Over the next four days, terribly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains and was taken in by sympathetic villagers, who risked their lives to keep him safe from surrounding Taliban warriors. He is the lone survivor. Not a day goes by when he doesn’t relive the nightmare of the day on the treeless mountain.
I rarely watch TV, but I saw Luttrell recount his story on the Today show, about losing his best friend, Lieutenant Michael Murphy. He was awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism. I rarely read military books, but I had to read this one. I did. And I wrote a feature about him for a Chicago newspaper. So, that’s the lucky chain of events that brought me to last week’s luncheon and my key spot at the head table with this guy who I think is beyond awesome for what he has been through, his loyalty to his friends, his mission and his indomitable courage under fire.
So, here are some life lessons I’m taking away from his story, ones I plan to hold on to during the days when the “finding me” part of being me and juggling all of that seems particularly challenging:
On setbacks. “For the rest of our lives there will be setbacks. But don’t buckle under to the hurt; rev up your spirit and your motivation, and attack.”
On quitting. “Don’t give in to the pressure of the moment. Whenever you’re hurting bad, just hang in there. Finish the day. Take one day at a time.”
On winning. “Know and understand your weaknesses. Plan and plan to improve them. Attend to the details. Overcome them. Because you can.”
On adversity. “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. I will get back up every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of fight.”
And that is exactly what he did. He recalls: “I never gave up. I just – that wasn’t an option. I was like, “Damn, why don’t these guys just get the job done, you know?”
When he came home, Luttrell traveled the country to meet with all the families of the helicopter pilots and the crew of the Chinook helicopter who lost their lives trying to rescue him, as well as with all the family members of his SEAL team.
I recommend his book to anyone who is a survivor or who’s facing a life challenge, no matter what you have survived or what you are facing. It is a universal story, one that everyone needs to read, to know that they are not alone. It’s a riveting story of survival, heartbreaking circumstances, ingenuity, hope and a guy who is carrying on in his friends’ memory.
And when you’re reading it, remember lucky me and my moment of glory.
To order Marcus’ books, go here.