Luttrell is a big dude. Not ripped, but it looks like he could pretty much end you if he wanted. On Wednesday at an office in Dallas, he was joined by his wife Melanie, and their service dog Rigby.
He was nice enough to give me about 30 minutes yesterday where I asked him everything. This is a long, but worth while, Q&A.
You sick of doing these interviews yet? Yep. Am I off the hook here, can I go?
Your friend, and protector during your rescue - Gulab - where is he? He's here. It's OK. He is with an Afghan community. We thought that would be better for him than hanging out here.
When he does go home, is he safe? No. Not at all.
Does he speak English? I understand a little bit, more than I can speak. For the most part, we have a translator. That is a pain in the butt.
Did writing the book, or making the movie, help you? No. Not really. People talk about closure, and you need to talk about this. I don’t talk about Operation Red Wing. I just tell the story.
What’s the difference? The emotional standpoint, I guess. I’ve never talked about it to anybody. I’ve never divulged the emotional stuff to anybody.
Is it there all the time? Yeah, sure. Other stuff, I’ve run over 300 combat missions in my career, a lot worse than Red Wing. We didn’t take as many casualties.
You glad you wrote the book and made the movie? (loooong pause) I wish that it wasn’t me that did it. I wish it could have been somebody who told the story about us, that it was a narrative.
That it wasn’t a first-person account? Yeah. That it was somebody who came in and allowed to push past the focal point and write it all down from his perspective as opposed to me from my perspective. And my two cents. Because I was there. It’s a first person account, and it’s true, but I like for it to be anonymous than rather to be in the public eye.
Any backlash SEALS or military for putting it out there? Every now and again, but it’s usually from people who don’t have the full story. They think I got out, wrote the book, and that’s not it. The book was the idea of the military’s. I was in Iraq when it was on Amazon. I was doing what I was told.
That had to be fun to do for your friends. Sure it was. Those are some of my closest buddies (in that scene).
When you sold the screen rights, did you put any stipulations on it? Yeah, it was more about tactics and the gun battle scene. I wanted to make sure they looked the part.
Hard to watch that scene? No. I went through it in real life. I see it for what it really is.
What is it really? Nobody died making the movie. Nobody was shot making the movie. Any time one of those scenes came down, I remembered that. I remembered being knocked unconscious. I don’t want to take anything away from the actors, the stunt men or the stunt coordinators and what they did. They did everything they could to make it look as real as possible. Those guys got hurt; broke ribs, broken clavicles. Those guys put out.
What did you think of the last 20 minutes of the film and the way your time in the village was portrayed? In real life, it was completely different. I think in the movie, they made me in the village for one night and a day time rescue. In real life, I was rescued in night time and under fire.
It’s popular to say there is a reason for everything – any idea why you lived? No. No.
Survivor guilt? No.
Just the life of the military and that’s the agreement you make when you sign up? Yeah. My teammates died, and they died an honorable death. They died a warrior’s death. Can’t ask for anything more. Would I like to have them back? Sure. Not saying that. But you and I are going to hit by a truck, cancer, old age, crap in a diaper … I don’t want to go out like that. Do you?
No. I want to die with my boots on. Or I want to die next to my wife. Those guys died in a hail of spent brass. Blood. It’s an honorable death.
In the book, you were very critical of the American media. Yeah, that spun up from the media’s reports telling my mother I was dead.
Do you still feel the same way? Sure.
More so? No. I don’t have something against the American media. I don’t. Respectfully, you put rules and regulations on us and we’re fighting a damn war. You guys don’t have to apologize for anything. That’s crap. You can’t just say what you want. I know the First Amendment – I fight for it. You guys get too big for your britches, and it’s ridiculous. I say you, I don’t mean you. There are great reporters, and tell the story of how it is. They say, ‘We don’t know.’
It’s what it is, I can’t correct it.
I have a real problem with my mother thinking I was dead for five days.
You guys had the ability to ruin a person’s life, just by saying something on TV. Think about the power you have.
Can we win this war? It’s harder for us to win. In the beginning, when the wars first kicked off, I’d like for you to think you have faith in my ability to carry out my mission and the money you’ve dumped into me. We went in, we had a mission, and if you remember in the beginning we put a dent into them and had them on their heels.
As the wars progressed, people have to solidify their role.
Are those wars winnable? (long pause) To do that whole win/loss thing, and I relate this to sports and past wars, it can only attained when you are fighting a known enemy with a uniform with a head and leadership.
Where document of surrender can be signed on boat? Yeah, exactly. It’s over and done. It’s not, go in and take this dude out or pay him to transfer his men over. But then one of his cousins gets killed and you’re back in the toilet. Who can you trust? Hell, we didn’t know who the enemy is.
Is it worth it? In Afghanistan, we decimated the herd. It was. In Iraq, I don’t know if it’s attainable or not. I’m not on the wire. I can’t really answer that question. It’s frustrating, I guess.
What will the war situation look like in 15 years? Probably going to run a circle. Hasn’t it always. When you are talking about trying to install a democracy.
Is that realistic? Look how long it took us – Civil War, bloodshed. I would say it would be tough, wouldn’t you? Most of them are illiterate, too. Which is the beauty of that whole situation.
Are you bitter at all? No, not at all. I’m a war fighter. I fight wars.
You miss fighting? Yeah. That’s what I am. It’s what I’m made of.
Are you retired? Yeah. Medical papers went through in ’09. Came off the line in ’07.
Do you suffer from any PTSD? No. I’m good.
Does this thing define you? No. It does not define me as a man. Didn't put my life on a path, it's just something that happened in my life. There is a story out there you can read, but I was not the only guy out there. There were 19 other guys, more than that; 19 died. If you walk into our house, there is no proof I was in the military.
Favorite war movie? Band of Brothers, that's spot on. I watched 300 before I go out on an op. Saving Private Ryan, Patton, Platoon, We Were Soldiers.
I've asked you a thousands questions, anything else you want to say? No. That was good.
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