It’s not surprising that the biggest movie in theaters right now is Lone Survivor, the account of Operation Redwings, by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, which is based on his book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.
While personal circumstances have kept me from being able to go see this movie, I know enough of the events of the operation by remembering when it happened, reading accounts since and from the stories of Luttrell and the rest of the Navy SEAL Team, including Michael Murphy, who is the subject of the excellent documentary ‘Murph the Protector’.
I’ve heard from some who have seen the movie, how powerful it is, how realistic, and the emotions of those in the theaters. This is not a movie meant for entertainment, but of education. To teach Americans what our Special Forces have faced and fought. Who still fight enemies which most of us will never have to face, only because of the men who have volunteered to fight the enemy far away from us.
It’s sad that we have so many here in America who would rather see this movie as pro war propaganda, rather than learning a lesson about those who volunteer for service to our Country- what they believe, what they do, and why.
One of the most incredibly disrespectful critiques I’ve read about this movie is by Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly. As she opens up the piece, I don’t know if she’s intending to be humorous or flip, but it sets the tone for the rest of the article. She begins, “Here’s a movie that’ll flop in Kabul…” the proceeds to describe it as a, “jingoistic snuff film about a Navy SEAL squadron outgunned by the Taliban.” Nicholson continues: “Lone Survivor’s problems are more complex than its Rambo-esque exuberance for machine-gun fire. The near-wordless second half is a deadly dubstep of bullets and snare drums punctuated with the occasional curse…the ammo doesn’t stop blasting long enough for their deaths to have weight. Instead, Lone Survivor just reads like a quasi-political exaggeration of a slasher film: the cellphones that don’t work, the rescuers just out of reach, the killers chasing our victims through the woods.” At the end of it she laments and asks, “What are we meant to learn from this waste of life? Who is even to blame?”
Maybe she ought to listen to Marcus Luttrell a little more, instead of pretending this is just some typical senseless Hollywood guy flick. Marcus says,
These men of the special forces have had other options in their lives, other paths, easier paths they could have taken. But they took the hardest path, that narrow causeway that is not for the sunshine patriot. They took the one for the supreme patriot, the one that may require them to lay down their lives for the United States of America. The one that is suitable only for those who want to serve their country so bad, nothing else matters. That’s probably not fashionable in our celebrity-obsessed modern world. But Special Forces guys don’t give a damn about that either…..They are of course aware of a higher calling, because they are sworn to defend this country and to fight its battles.
Nicholson isn’t the first to question war. From the hippies in the 60’s and 70’s questioning the government involving our troops in Vietnam to the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, there will always be pathetic people who call our troops baby killers, paint them as men bent on shooting villagers, bombing indiscriminately and terrorizing innocent people. There will also be those who claim to support our troops, but not the war as if that’s somehow honoring those who fight in war. People will lay blame at the feet of the “military industrial complex”, or blame America for being imperialists, asking for it because we dare to keep a presence in other countries with our military bases.
These people have a right to their beliefs and opinions, but I have to wonder if they ever think of the fact that the only reason why they can even voice their opinions is because of the men they blame? I will never be able to fathom the mind of those who would rather blame America first, or those like Ms. Nicholson who alludes to our military as barbarians because they selflessly volunteer to do violence on our behalf. Do these people stop to think, that maybe our troops aren’t war mongers at all, but instead they have a desire to help those who are oppressed by evil? If these people believe in evil at all, their attitude seems to think of our own as the evil ones. Guys who love to do nothing more than shoot guns and break stuff.
They believe that our troops love war, yet don’t consider the fact that maybe they love other people more, so much so that they are willing to die to protect them. No one likes war, especially our troops, but they know that if left alone evil grows and without someone willing to step in and fight it, more people would be oppressed, hurt or die without their intervention.
All we can do is either complain about or be grateful to those who keep us safe. None of us have ever had to put our lives on the line, to step into the face of death and fight to the bitter end to save their brothers, or some stranger in a land most of us will never set foot in. Do we really have the right to judge anyone for making a movie which describes and gives us just a small glimpse of what our troops endure on a day to day basis during battles? Do we have the right to question the motives of those who wear the uniform of any branch of America’s armed forces?
I don’t know what Ms. Nicholson learned from this movie, but from what I know about the actions and deeds of not just of those who were a part of Operation Redwings but of so many others, I don’t see it as a waste of life. I see it as something given; of life selflessly given. I see those who swore an oath, to protect our way of life, our freedoms and the chance to give these same freedoms to others.
Lone Survivor is not about glorifying war; it is about honoring those who are willing to fight it. To borrow a quote from Captain Ryan McCombie, US Navy (Ret.), “It’s all in your heart. It’s all in your head.” It is a story that honors those who still see Duty and Sacrifice as a way of life–sadly a term whose meaning is lost on most people these days.