Thursday, May 31, 2007

Navy SEALs - Lone Survivor



If you've been reading this blog, you've heard me refer to "my Navy Seal boys". Navy Seals are based in 3 parts of the US; San Diego, Norfolk, Virginia and Honolulu. These guys are amazing people, who strive for the utmost challenge, and do it as a means of serving their country. Their toughness is without question, and their loyalties, thicker than blood.

Back in late June of 2005, almost 2 years ago now, it was a sad time for many of my Navy Seal friends, as they experienced the deadliest day in their history, with the loss of 11 lives of their teammates along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in a fight against Taliban forces.

My Seal friends here were devastated, as they were all friends, but one gentleman in particular was a close friend. Marcus Luttrell was MIA, and presumed dead. Marcus and Morgan Luttrell were identical twins, and two of the most popular guys on the team. From the first time I ever met them, it was clear they had a lot of personality! You couldn't help but like the guys. Their Texas roots were evident in their speech, as well as their character. They were tough, hilarious and at the same time, kind and caring. They stood about 6'5", and 220 lbs. Big boys with big hearts.

For days he was still MIA, and I recall having a conversation with my good friend JT, trying to prepare him for what seemed the inevitable truth, that Marcus was dead. Little did any of us really know of what was going on in those mountains.

In October of 2005, I headed out to Honolulu, Hawaii in an attempt to win the ITU Age-Group World Championships. I stayed with Morgan in Honolulu, and it was the first real chance I ever experienced spending a lot of time with either one. I finished 3rd overall, and won the Men's 25-29 World Championship, and my friendship with Marcus and Morgan has been very close ever since.

So what happened to Marcus? Marcus survived in one of the most amazing, incredulous stories you could ever imagine. Truth would certainly seem stranger than fiction.

Marcus has written a book to be released on June 12th. This week he is in San Diego to make his official exit from the Navy, as he must exit the Navy before it can be printed. He did this to tell the story of what happened to his teammates, as well as what it means to be a Navy Seal.

Here's a description of the book from Amazon.com:

"On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission was to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader known to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold surrounded by a small but heavily armed force. Less then twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive. This is the story of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. But it is also, more than anything, the story of his teammates, who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left-blasted unconscious by a rocket grenade, blown over a cliff, but still armed and still breathing. Over the next four days, badly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell fought off six al Qaeda assassins who were sent to finish him, then crawled for seven miles through the mountains before he was taken in by a Pashtun tribe, who risked everything to protect him from the encircling Taliban killers. A six-foot-five-inch Texan, Leading Petty Officer Luttrell takes us, blow-by-blow, through the brutal training of America's warrior elite and the relentless rites of passage required by the Navy SEALs. He transports us to a monstrous battle fought in the desolate peaks of Afghanistan, where the beleaguered American team plummeted headlong a thousand feet down a mountain as they fought back through flying shale and rocks. In this rich , moving chronicle of courage, honor, and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare-and a tribute to his teammates, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country."

My wife and I had dinner the other night with JT, Morgan and Marcus. Marcus had just landed back in San Diego, and we went to a local pizza and beer joint. We caught up, and talked about Marcus' upcoming book tour, which currently is scheduled for Larry King Live, Oprah, The Today Show, and a number of other stops, possibly even The Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno.

I'm looking forward to Marcus' book, as I've already pre-ordered 4 copies from Amazon.com. I think Marcus helps me see a bigger picture when I toe the line at Ironman. Not that the race isn't important, but that the opportunity to compete in it is. The opportunity to do well, even more special. I may never win an Ironman, but I certainly set some lofty goals in my life, and will have chased them to the best of my ability. Along the way, I've met some amazing people, and hopefully helped just as many. Isn't that what life is about?

As I enter the final, important days of my training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I feel inspired, confident and ready. I am truly in a special place in my life, and amazed at the individuals who surround me, and support me to do my best.

At dinner, Marcus told me, "I was just talking about you the other day to somebody!" I replied, "Really? Who was that?"
He stated, "The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. He's training for a triathlon, and I told him about you. I told him you're a coach too, so he might be giving you a call."

Wouldn't that be something!

Vance - 2007 NFA

3 comments:

barndog said...

Real men wear cammo (and lycra). Thanks for the perspective.

Bubblehead said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bulldog said...

I went through boot camp and BUD/S (Seal Training) with Morgan and had the honor of meeting Marcus on several occasions. They are with out question two of the most inspiring men I've ever met.