Lone Survivor; the convergence of heroism, superb storytelling, and the greater question of national security

by Matthew Strong

It was almost four years after my younger brother was killed in combat in Iraq before I could watch a war movie. Watching a film such as “Black Hawk Down” was like a knife being shoved through a not-quite-healed scar. Hearing the story behind Lone Survivor made me very apprehensive about seeing it, I knew it would be an emotional film. But the larger questions swirling around the story drew me to watch it. I’ve seen a lot of films, but it was one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen, and I highly recommend it. It is a great reminder of what makes our armed forces so amazing, and a harsh reminder of the Islamic extremism we must continue to be vigilant against. As I reflect on the ninth anniversary (1/26/05) of the day my brother gave his last full measure of devotion for our country, and for the Iraqis about to vote for the first time, this film leads to a great conversation of where we are today.

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The movie is based on true-life events surrounding Operation Redwings in 2005 in Afghanistan. I highly recommend the timeline of seeing the film, and then reading the book, and not the other way around. The director (Peter Berg, who also directed The Kingdom, Hancock, Friday Night Nights, etc.) takes some liberties for time and story sake. Marc Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, the only one of a four man SEAL team who survives an operation to capture a Taliban commander. Berg’s talent comes through in being able to truly capture the randomness of war, and the issues with fighting that war in Afghanistan. This film is unlike any previous war related film and the effect is profound.

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(Luttrell is third from right)

CNN correspondent Jake Tapper recently stirred up a lot of controversy, and took his life in his hands, by questioning Luttrell in an interview, “I don’t mean to disrespect in any way, but it seemed senseless — all of these wonderful people who were killed for an op that went wrong.” Luttrell, in his unvarnished way, gave a great answer.

“We spend our whole lives training to defend this country, and then we were sent over there by this country,” Luttrell said. “So you’re telling me because we were over there doing what we were told by our country, that it was senseless? And my guys, what? They died for nothing?”

Backtracking, Tapper said, “No.”

“That’s what you said,” Luttrell fired back. “So, let me just say, it went bad for us over there, but that was our job. That’s what we did. We didn’t complain about it.”

Jake Tapper said it very poorly, but it’s something many people are thinking about. But it is not a question that should ever be asked during a conflict. If we are to engage in a war as a nation, our duty to our own security, to the Constitution, and to the men who must stand in our place on a foreign field, is that we must go to win, or not go at all. You cannot send our bravest and best into mortal conflict and then question their motives while they are in harm’s way. For many however, this feels like old news. Why are we still there? Aren’t we done already? How could we support a war for oil? Sometimes when I fill up my large work vehicle at the gas pump, I wish it was a war for oil, I wish that China (now the world’s largest oil importer) wasn’t reaping the benefits of oil contracts with Iraq without a dime or a life invested in its security.

President Obama’s waffling on Middle Eastern policy and his lack of support for our troops, their mission, and the men who lead them (as evidenced in a recent book by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates) has endangered those still in harm’s way, and the entire region, which is being overrun by emboldened radical Islamic terrorists. And our country, with all the freedoms we have sacrificed on the altar of the NSA, as Edward Snowden has pointed out… has it made us safer?

Jonathan Garrigues (former Staff Sgt., USMC) says “I personally think it definitely has. The fact that we are just as big of a target now as ever, and we haven’t had any American soil attacks says something to me. It seems that simple.” He recently graduated from Excelsior College with a BS in Liberal Arts with Concentrations in Counterterrorism and Sociology. He fought in the battle of Fallujah and was given the Purple Heart for wounds during that action. “I don’t like my rights infringed upon any more than the next guy. But I also want my family and country to be safe. There is no such thing as perfect security and we will always have to balance our genuine safety with our willingness to be inconvenienced by its enforcement.”

This conversation is happening all over the country. Where do the crossroads of our Constitutional liberty and our national security actually meet? Our borders continue to be porous and unsecured, an extremely dangerous precedent. The state of Maine is moving toward an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) proof electrical grid, and while some say it is just because of geomagnetic storms, the threat is real for a terrorist or rogue state to do us serious harm with a man-made EMP. There have been multiple trespassing issues at water treatment plants and reservoir that handles most of the water for Boston, including the most recent one where a Muslim man had to be rescued from a pipe he had become stuck in, inside a barbed wire fenced facility. While they are probably and hopefully just coincidences, the threat to our infrastructure is real and the issues surrounding the Boston marathon bombing continue to be investigated.

On the other hand, the Constitution is very clear about unwarranted searches and the privacy of law-abiding citizens. In our neighboring state of New Hampshire, experts in liberty from all over the country will be gathering to discuss and debate this very issue, among others, at the annual Liberty Forum in Nashua. As evidenced by the picture below from the mall shooting that took place in Maryland, our increasingly militarized police now looks more like a modern day navy SEAL team than a police force.

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(This picture was taken in the aftermath of the MD shopping mall shooting)

Whether it’s the men who lost their lives during Operation Redwings, Sgt. Jesse Strong, or Chief Petty Officer Edward Ballie (the most recent member of our armed forces to be killed in action in Afghanistan on 1/20/14), we must honor their memory by protecting the Constitution they swore an oath to defend, and with continued vigilance for the radicalized Islamic extremists who still mean to do us harm. As you watch the Super Bowl and the upcoming Olympics take note of the security measures surrounding these events. Terrorism has changed our way of life substantially. The battle for our security is just as important as the battle for our country’s spirit and soul. Neither is a war we can lose.