One of the deepest pains a warrior must bear is returning home to those who love you most . . . only to realize day after day that despite their best efforts, your loved ones cannot possibly begin to comprehend the invisible load you carry.
I thought I understood my brother’s burden. Today, I began to understand . . . only if just a little.
We can all understand physical pain.
What remains so far beyond the reach of those of us who haven’t fought for our country and watched our friends die in the process is the monstrous ache perpetuated daily by the memories that never quite seem to go away.
What began as a birthday present for my father (and indeed, a sincere desire to see a movie about so incredible a story) turned into an experience that altered the way I look at the world, and how I understand my brother’s pain.
As he is quick to note, this is not his story. Nor is it the exact story of any of his fellow soldiers. The pain, however, is the same.
Why did I live, and he die?
Marcus Luttrell—played by Mark Walhberg in the film Lone Survivor—is one of thousands upon thousands of returning heroes who fought alongside their fellow warriors in battles to the death against pure evil, only to return home alone; the land behind them still stained with the blood of the fallen. With every new day the pain is renewed, and the memories freshened.
By the grace of God, my brother was spared, though on more than one occurrence he could have easily been a statistic. Ironically enough, it was the music he was (and is) hardly ever without that saved his life in one of his many close calls when his iPod—tucked under his uniform—stopped an enemy bullet.
He came home, when so many others didn’t. He is a survivor, and thanks to an incredible movie I began to understand the pain that cloaks him because of that fact.
It’s difficult to watch a movie like this and not feel a sense of pride; a love of country.
Apparently, some people can.
Amy Nicholson, a film critic at L.A. Weekly who described it as a “jingoistic snuff film” writes:
“As the film portrays them, their attitudes to the incredibly complex War on Terror, fought hillside by bloody hillside in the Afghan frontier with both U.S. and Taliban forces contributing to an unconscionably high civilian body count, were simple: Brown people bad, American people good”
Conveniently enough, Ms. Nicholson carefully glazes over the fact that not only did a benevolent Pashtun villager save Luttrell’s life in the waning scenes of the movie, but Luttrell later fought tooth and nail to ensure Mohammad Gula’s safety from Taliban retaliation by helping to secure visa for him and his family.
She goes on:
“What are we meant to learn from this waste of life? Who is even to blame?”
It’s actually quite simple, Ms. Nicholson. We’re—they’re—fighting against those who’d like to see you, a fully Westernized, liberated liberal female, buried up to your neck and stoned for behaving contrary to their sadistic worldview. It’s really quite straightforward.
On one of the brief, precious phone calls we received from my brother while he was deployed in Iraq, my mother–a patriotic descendent of many generations of veterans–felt compelled by motherly duty to ask him to assure her that what he was risking his life for over there was worth it. She was, as we all were, faced with the ominous fact that at any moment the phone could ring with unimaginable news. She wanted to rest in complete certainty that her son’s life would not be given in vain.
“Mom,” he answered, “I can tell you that if I wasn’t fighting them here, they’d be there.”
Let me be one of many to educate you, Ms. Nicholson:
American, good. Taliban, bad.
2 thoughts on “Lone Survivor”
Being the kind of person who has repeated nightmares after seeing war movies, I greatly appreciated your viewing the movie and reporting on it. I will not be able to see the movie, so I would have liked to have heard more of your reflections on it’s contents and deeper meanings. But on second thought, maybe not. I’ll just be satisfied with your (all you need to know) ending. Americans, good. Taliban, bad. Thank you for taking the time to do what many of us cannot.
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