Whatever active duty Navy SEALs get paid it's not enough. I arrived at this conclusion after reading the story of Marcus Luttrell in the book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. It is the most moving and personally transforming story I've ever read about someone in my generation.
In early July 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALS departed for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission. Their mission was to document the activity of an al-Qaeda leader believed to be very close to Bin Laden with a small army in a Taliban stronghold. Five days later, after heavy fighting, only Marcus Luttrell made it out alive. (Luttrell is pictured above with the parents of one of his late teammates, Lt. Michael Murphy, a recipient of the Medal of Honor.) After being wounded and presumed dead in a firefight that took the lives of his teammates, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains and was taken in by sympathetic villagers who risked their lives to keep him safe from surrounding Taliban warriors.
Luttrell's story recounts not only the events surrounding the dreadful days before and after losing his teammates, but it also invites readers to understand the years of training and preparation necessary to produce warriors like Luttrell. It's a story about discipleship, camaraderie, courage, commitment, wisdom, and mercy.
Readers will be challenged by Luttrell's brutal honesty describing how the "liberal media" and "rules of engagement" put soldiers' lives at risk because terrorists have figured out how to disguise themselves as civilians and how to contact the media to give the appearance that U.S. soldiers have murdered "innocent" people. War is ugly and has costly spillover effects. According to Luttrell, terrorists use politician-drafted rules of engagement to exploit soldiers' lack of freedom to protect themselves and prevent murderous situations from occurring in the first place. Luttrell writes:
"The truth is, 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. . . . Faced with the murderous cutthroats of the Taliban, we are not fighting under the rules of Geneva IV Article 4. We are fighting under the rules of Article 223.556mm-that's the caliber and gauge of our M4 rifle. And if those numbers don't look good, try Article .762mm, that's what the stolen Russian Kalashnikos fire at us, usually in deadly, heavy volleys."
Overall, not only was I brought to tears in some parts, and aroused to anger at terrorism in others, a few moments after closing the book, I seriously thought through what it would look like for me to drop what I'm doing and join the Navy. I was previously unaware of the specialized training as well as the nature of SEAL teams. These men are simply amazing. If I ever meet a SEAL in person I'll consider it a real honor. Because I am constantly thinking about applications for the church I couldn't help but imagine what a formidable force of good the church in America could be if we raised boys to be men with Navy SEAL levels of camaraderie, courage, and wisdom. What if we really understood what it meant to train others to "take up their cross." Read the book. You'll be inspired.