Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wisdom from Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor is a big movie now, and my like of it compelled me to read the book it was based on, written by Marcus Luttrell with the assistance of Patrick Robinson. It is a compelling read, with much wisdom to be gleaned in its pages.

I'll share some of the wisdom I found most profound below:

 "I was about twelve when I realized beyond doubt that I was going to become a Navy SEAL. And I knew a lot more about it than most kids my age. I understood the brutality of the training, the level of fitness required, and the need for super skills in the water. I thought I would be able to handle that. Dad had told us of the importance of marksmanship, and I knew I could do that.

"SEALs need to be home in rough country, able to survive, live in the jungle if necessary. We were already good at that. By the age of twelve, Morgan and I were like a couple of wild animals, at home in the great outdoors, at home with a fishing pole and gun, easily able to live off the land.

"But deep down I knew there was something more required to make it into the world's top combat teams. And that was a level of fitness and strength that could only be attained by those who actively sought it. Nothing just happens. You always have to strive." (pg 53)

Here we see Marcus Luttrell identifying clearly his life purpose. If you've read Think & Grow Rich you will know what this means. We also see the influence of strong masculine role models in this chapter- his father, his mentor Billy Shelton, and we will also see the influence of the SEAL instructors later on.

In chapter four, Marcus and some others managed to make a four-mile run in thirty-two minutes. He describes how the instructors at BUD/S harangued those that could not:

"I remember, vividly, him yelling out to them that we, dry and doing our push-ups up the beach, were winners, whereas they, the slowpokes, were losers! Then he told them they better start taking this seriously or they would be out of here.

"Those guys up there, taking it easy, they paid the full price," he yelled. "Right up front. You did not. You failed. And for guys like you there's a bigger price to pay, understand me?"

"He knew this was shockingly unfair, because some of them had been doing their genuine best. But he had to find out for certain. Who believed they could improve? Who was determined to stay? And who was halfway out the door already?" (pg 117)

Later in the same chapter, Chief Bob Nielsen, the lead instructing petty officer, makes these remarks:

"Your reputation is built right here in first phase. And you don't want people to think you're a guy who does just enough to scrape through. You want people to understand you always try to excel, to be better, to be completely reliable, always giving it your best shot. That's the way we do business here.

"And remember this one last thing. There's only one guy here in this room who knows whether you're going to make it, or fail. And that's you. Go to it gentlemen. And always give it everything." (pg 123)

After this, the trainees meet the commanding officer, Captain Joe Maguire, a onetime commander of SEAL Team 2 and the future Rear Admiral commanding SPECWARCOM:

"First of all, I do not want you to give in to the pressure of this moment. Whenever you're hurting bad, just hang in there. Finish the day. Then, if you're still feeling bad, think about it long and hard before you decide to quit. Second, take it one day at a time. One evolution at a time.

"Don't let your thoughts run away with you, don't start planning to bail out because you're worried about the future and how much you can take. Don't look ahead to the pain. Just get through the day, and there's a wonderful career ahead of you." (pg 124)

This is sound advice which Marcus echoes later in the chapter:

"I later learned that when a man quits and is given another chance and takes it, he never makes it through. All the instructors know that. If the thought of DOR enters a man's head, he is not a Navy SEAL.

"I guess that element of doubt forever pollutes his mind. And puffing, sweating, and steaming down there on that beach on the first night of Hell Week, I understood it.

"I understood it, because that thought could never have occurred to me. Not while the sun still rises in the east. All the pain in Coronado could not have inserted that poison into my mind. I might have passed out, had a heart attack, or been shot before a firing squad. But I never would have quit." (pg 136-7)

Again, if you have read Think & Grow Rich, you will recognize the similarities to the philosophy Hill laid out and what is written in these preceding passages. Thoughts turn into actions, and actions turn into habits, and habits become your destiny.

Later on, Marcus describes the dedication and sheer pain tolerance of his comrades when the operation goes terribly wrong:

"Then Danny was shot again. Right through the neck, and he went down beside me. He dropped his rifle and slumped to the ground. I reached down to grab him and drag him closer to the rock face, but he managed to clamber to his feet, trying to tell me he was okay even though he'd been shot four times.

"Danny couldn't speak now, but he wouldn't give in. He propped himself up against a rock for cover and opened fire again at the Taliban, signaling he might need a new magazine as his very lifeblood poured out of him. I just stood there for a moment, helplessly, fighting back my tears, witnessing a brand of valor I had never before been privileged to see. What a guy. What a friend." (pg 225)

This quote is self-explanatory. One cannot help but marvel at the hardness of these guys, and the dedication they had for their friends. Think about the so-called tight spots you've been in in life. How many of us have complained at the slightest inkling? Then think about what these guys went through, and you'll realize how pitiful it is, and strive to improve yourself.

"I could still hear gunfire, and it was growing closer. They were definitely coming this way. I just thought, don't move, don't breathe, do not make a sound. I think it was about then I understood how utterly alone I was for the very first time. And the Taliban was hunting me. They were not hunting for a SEAL platoon. They were hunting me alone. Despite my injuries, I knew I had to reach deep. I was starting to lose track of time but I stayed still. I actually did not move one inch for eight hours." (pg 246)

Consider Marcus' discipline under such stressful conditions, and again, think of the stress you faced. Did you keep your composure, your discipline? Let it serve as motivation. It certainly does for me.

"Right after that, must have been around midnight, a new figure entered the room, accompanied by two attendants. I knew this was the village elder, a small man with a beard, a man who commanded colossal respect. The Taliban immediately stood up and stepped aside as the old man walked to the spot where I was lying. He kneeled down and offered me water in a little silver cup, gave me bread, and then stood up and turned on the Taliban.

"I was not certain what he was saying, but I found out later he was forbidding them to take me away. I think they knew that before they came, otherwise I'd probably have been gone by then. But there was no mistaking the authority in his voice. It was a small, quiet voice, calm, firm, and no one spoke while he spoke. No one interrupted either.

"They hardly said a word while this powerful little figure laid down the law. Tribal law, I guess. When he left, he walked out into the night very upright, the kind of posture adopted by men who are unused to defiance. You could spot him from a mile off..." (pg 296-7)

There were about eight men with AKs interrogating Marcus in this room, but the village elder trumped all of them with his dominant body language and voice. His status as the elder was probably known by them, but he played the part. His frame was one of dominance and self-assurance, fostered by the mindset of his own status. This is the Strategy of the Crown, described in law of power #34.

Nearing the end of the book, two more passages are profound:

"I looked at the silent bell outside the BUD/S office and at the place where the dropouts leave their helmets. Soon there would be more helmets, when the new BUD/S class began. Last time I was here I'd been in dress uniform, along with a group of immaculately turned-out new SEALs, many of whom I had subsequently served with.

"And it occurred to me that any one of them, on any given day, would have done all the same things I had done in my last combat mission in the Hindu Kush. I wasn't any different. I was just, I hoped, the same Texas country boy who'd come through the greatest training system on earth, with the greatest bunch of guys anyone could ever meet. The SEALs, the warriors, the front line of the United States military muscle. I still get a lump in my throat when I think of who we all are.

"I remember my back ached a bit as I stood there on the grinder, lost in my own thoughts, and my wrist, as ever, hurt, pending another operation. And I suppose I knew deep down I would never be quite the same physically, never as combat-hard as I once was, because I cannot manage the running and climbing. Still, I never was Olympic standard!

"But I did live my dream, and then some, and I guess I'll be asked many times whether it had all been worth it in the end. And my answer will always be the same one I gave so often on my first day.

"Affirmative, sir." Because I came through it, and I have my memories, and I wouldn't have traded any of it, not for the whole world. I'm a United States Navy SEAL." (pg 379-80)

This passage particularly struck me. Despite all the injuries, the loss of his friends, and the mental anguish that came from all of it, Marcus still says it was worth it. Here you can really see the faith of a man who had found his purpose in life, and his persistence in fulfilling it.

"In the fall of 2006, Marcus Luttrell was redeployed with SEAL Team 5 in Iraq. At 0900 on Friday, October 6, thirty-six of them took off in a military Boeing C-17 from North Air Station, Coronado, bound for Ar Ramadi, the U.S. base which lies sixty miles west of Baghdad - a notorious trouble spot, of course. That's why the SEALs were going.

"The fact that the navy had deployed their wounded, decorated hero of the Afghan mountains was a considerable surprise to many people, most of whom thought he would leave SPECWARCOM for the less dangerous life of a civilian. Because even after more than a year, his back was still painful, his battered wrist was less than perfect, and he still suffered from that confounded Afghan stomach bug he had contracted from the Pepsi bottle.

"But the deployment of Marcus Luttrell was a personal matter. He alone called the shots, not the navy. His contract with the SEALs still had many months to run, and there was no way he was going to quit. I think we mentioned, there ain't no quit in him. Marcus wanted to stay, to fulfill his obligations as leading petty officer (Alfa Platoon), a position which carries heavy responsibilities.

"To me, he said, "I don't want my guys to go without me. Because if anything happened to them and I wasn't there, I guess I would not forgive myself." (pg 385)

This is part of the afterward that closes out the book, and to me it perfectly summed up Marcus Luttrell and his entire life's philosophy and experiences, and those of the SEALs - their brotherhood and the strict devotion to fulfill their purpose, to never quit from the fight, and ultimately, to win.

This book increased, massively, my respect not just for the SEALs, but to all who serve and have served in the armed forces. These are all warriors, and their attitude is perfect. It is one of winning, and should be adopted for all forms of life. This is a book every man should read.

No comments:

Post a Comment