Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lone Survivor -- My Book of the Month

When I was younger, I thought about joining the military. I had several classmates who signed up. One was Pacoy Ortega, one of my bestfriends in school, who went to Fort Del Pilar in Baguio but stayed only a year (I think he's like some Mayor or Congressman now in La Union). I had another classmate (who shall go nameless since I'm not sure if he's still serving) who joined the US Army where I heard he was in the Special Forces. We also had a teacher in high school who left Ateneo to spend one tour with the US Marines. Wow.

I almost did right between 1st and 2nd year college. At that time, I was really gung-ho about joining the US Marines. My uncle, retired General Thelmo Y. Cunanan, now head of the local SSS, went to West Point and that made a huge impression on me as well. But I can't remember what made me change my mind at the last moment but I guess things happen for a reason.

I still enjoy the military genre whether in book form or in movies and some of them are in my list of all-time favorites like Saving Private Ryan and Blackhawk Down.

I personally know one person who served in Iraq for like two years before he rotated back to the US. His brother was in Guantanamo for like a year as well. I've been wanting to write about their experiences but it takes awhile for them to get back to me. Maybe when I move back Stateside.

In the meantime, here's a book that makes for great reading. I included the synopsis in case you might be interested.

If you're looking for a true story that showcases both a soldier's heroism and people's humanity, Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, written with Patrick Robinson, may be the book for you. In June of 2005, Luttrell led a four-man team of US Navy SEALs into the mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to kill a Taliban leader thought to be allied with Osama bin Laden. On foot, the team encountered two adult men and a teenage boy. A debate broke out as to whether the SEALs should summarily execute the trio to keep them from alerting the Taliban. Luttrell himself was called upon to make the decision. He was torn between considerations of morality and his survival instinct, and he points out that "any government that thinks war is somehow fair and subject to rules like a baseball game probably should not get into one. Because nothing's fair in war, and occasionally the wrong people do get killed."

Luttrell opted to spare the Afghanis' lives. About an hour later, the Taliban launched an attack that claimed nearly a hundred of their own men but also the lives of all the SEALs except Luttrell, who was left wounded.

Not long after that, the Taliban shot down an American rescue helicopter, killing all 16 men on board. Luttrell is sure that the three Afghanis he let go turned around and betrayed the SEALs.

But if nothing is fair in war, neither is anything foreordained. Luttrell was found by other Afghanis, one of whom claimed to be his village's doctor. Once again, Luttrell had to rely on his instincts. "There was something about him," Luttrell writes. "By now I'd seen a whole lot of Taliban warriors, and he looked nothing like any of them. There was no arrogance, no hatred in his eyes." Luttrell trusted the man and his colleagues, who took him back to their village, where the law of hospitality -- "strictly nonnegotiable" -- took hold. "They were committed to defend me against the Taliban," Luttrell writes, "until there was no one left alive."

The law held, and Luttrell survived, returned home and received the Navy Cross for combat heroism from President Bush.


  1. Bowden's Blackhawk Down is an excellent read. I'll check out Lone Survivor.


  2. I read this book, and even though I felt the same as Marcus had before I read it, I strongly agree with everything he is and represents. The book, by the way, was absolutely one of the saddest, gut wrenching, yet winderful stories of will power and faith and the human spirits perserverence. I will never forget Marcus and this story, even though I have never met him. Thank you for your service and sharing this very hard personal time of your life.