Chaos and pain. Marcus Luttrell admits he thrives on those two things.
That was a centerpiece of his shattered and heroic story of growing up in Texas and wanting to be a U.S. Navy SEAL special forces team member alongside his twin brother. They both would graduate from the hard-as-nails school in Coronado, Calif.
“Y’all ready to rock ’n’ roll?” Luttrell asked the 1,200 people gathered at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center Tuesday, the second and final day of the 11th annual Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum.
As if they had a choice, the 40-year-old husband and father of three children proceeded to lead the audience in an overview of his life, rattling off details as if they were an assault rifle similar to the one he used on a harrowing mission in 2005 in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Luttrell’s story already has been well chronicled in his book, “Lone Survivor,” which topped the New York Times best-seller list in 2007. It then was made into a movie of the same name in 2014, with Mark Wahlberg playing Luttrell.
The Texan was part of a four-man reconnaissance team that entered the mountainous border of Afghanistan and Pakistan in June 2005. The mission quickly turned deadly after herdsmen spotted the Americans, culminating in a firefight against a heavily armed group of Taliban.
Luttrell was the only one of the four to make it out alive — albeit with a terribly battered and wounded body — after being sheltered by a local group of villagers. He would later receive a Purple Heart and the Navy Cross for combat heroism.
“I thank God every single day for letting me be born common and in this country,” said Luttrell, discussing his disciplinary father, who told his sons if they were going to exploit all that America has to offer, they would have to serve it first. Thus, their laser-focused goal to become members of the Navy’s elite SEa, Air and Land (SEAL) forces. In essence, he said Tuesday, they were training to become paid “gunfighters.”
“My existence, what I’m an expert at, is surviving in chaos and pain,” said Luttrell, who grew up respecting women and learning to be early for anything and everything. Being late, for instance, could possibly get the head blown off of one his fellow special forces team members.
Saying he doesn’t suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the former service member was brutally honest about his mentality entering the military’s elite and the eight years he spent in the Navy. His focus was to beat you, even if it meant a battle to his or your death. To earn his respect, he said, you’ve got to get bloody with him.
“You can’t break me mentally, period,” he said. “I didn’t come in here to lose, man. I came in here to take you out ... That’s the mentality, that’s the mindset that you have to have.”
Luttrell spoke of the close bond he developed with his SEAL comrades, understanding that they had each other’s backs. That was evident in his recounting of the fateful mission in Afghanistan, as he watched his friends get shot up and die one by one. He still recoils at the sound of them dying in the dirt and rocks there.
“I spent my whole life trying to make myself a weapon so I wouldn’t have to fight,” he said at one point in his presentation.
The tragic experience of being a sole survivor after the desperation overseas left him with “so much passion” for life, said Luttrell, now living on a farm with his family, growing vegetables to make certain he is self-sufficient.
Closing out his appearance at the forum, the former SEAL member tossed out a variety of observations and advice to those who sat captivated, listening to him, for nearly an hour.
“I don’t care what you do for a living. If you don’t do your best, you are beaten,” he said.
“You train the hard way so you can live the easy way. Most people will always go for the easy,” he also mentioned.
“Pain and misery have made me who I am,” said the outdoors boy from Texas, then acknowledging he had left all he had this day on the forum stage, just as he had during his time in the military.
“That’s all I got for you,” he said.