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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: American heroism in the Afghan mountains

January 29, 2014|By Joe Puglia

If you haven’t seen the film “Lone Survivor,” you should. It’s a story about the best of us and it details the best in us. I read the book and the story has inhabited me since. Some stories touch you and never quite leave you.

On June 27, 2005, Lt. Michael Murphy and petty officers Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell, Navy SEALs, were dropped into the mountains of the Hindu Kush to surveil the Taliban leader Ahmad Shan. Soon after their arrival, the mission was compromised by three goat herders.

The situation spiraled out of control and once again I see truth to the axiom that combatants know only too well: “Whatever will go wrong, will!”

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What to do with the goat herders? The SEALs dilemma has created debates in book clubs and barrooms throughout America. Tie them up! Kill them! Let them go and run the risk that they will further compromise the mission. Everyone knows how it ended. The SEALs released the goat herders and found themselves outnumbered and outgunned. Only Luttrell survived the ensuing firefight. Sixteen more Americans died when a helicopter responding to the fight was shot down.

Miraculously, Muhammad Gulad, an Afghan shepherd, saved Luttrell’s life. Under an ancient and ironclad code of the Pashtun people called pashtunwali, Gulad protected Luttrell from his enemies with his life.

“Lone Survivor” provides a glimpse into the horrors and heroism of battle, communicating lessons about the reality of war and the heroics of our soldiers that should not be lost on Americans.

“War is hell,” exclaimed General Sherman during his March to the Sea in the Civil War. There is no glory for those called upon by their country to wage war. Only sweat, blood and sacrifice.

The courage and proficiency of our soldiers are second to none. From the initial skirmishes at Lexington and Concord to the bravery and heroism demonstrated in the mountains in Afghanistan, the fighting spirit of the American soldier is incomparable. Every American owes a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to secure our freedoms and way of life.

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