By Tisha Johnson, Fort Leavenworth LampMay 14, 2009
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (May 14, 2009) - A U.S. senator and a former Navy SEAL were honored at the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation luncheon May 7 in Kansas City, Mo. - the day before the late president's 125th birthday.
Marcus Luttrell received the Philip Pistilli Silver Veteran's Medal, and Sen. Christopher Bond received the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award during a ceremony at the downtown Marriott Hotel.
Command and General Staff College Deputy Commandant Brig. Gen. Edward C. Cardon presented the award to Luttrell.
Luttrell is a native Texan who, during upbringing on a ranch, learned the values, perseverance and self-reliance that made him extraordinary, Cardon said. Luttrell wanted to be part of an elite team, a Navy SEAL, so he joined the Navy in 1999.
On June 28, 2005, Luttrell was a member of a four-man SEAL team that took part in Operation Redwing in the mountains of Afghanistan. The team was discovered by the enemy and, after a firefight, Luttrell was the only survivor. The relief team sent in to evacuate, including eight SEALs, were all killed when their helicopter was shot down. It was the single largest loss of life in a day in Navy SEAL history.
Luttrell was badly injured and traveled several miles across difficult mountainous terrain with the Taliban in pursuit. He was eventually aided by Pashtun tribesmen, who put their own lives at risk.
"This brief summary can't even begin to describe the full measure of heroism that day," Cardon said.
When he returned to the states, Luttrell visited the family of every SEAL lost during the operation. He wanted to tell the families what happened in the mountains that day, personally share their loss and help them begin the healing process, Cardon said.
"That journey illustrates his tremendous sense of honor and commitment to his fallen brothers," Cardon said. "How proud we all are that our nation and our military have men like Marcus."
Luttrell recounts his ordeal is in his book "Lone Survivor."
"I wrote the book so I wouldn't ever have to tell the story again and that turned around and bit me somewhere," Luttrell said with a laugh.
When he joined the military, it wasn't for medals or honor, Luttrell said.
"I knew what I wanted to do, be a Navy SEAL, and that was it," Luttrell said.
Part of a team, Luttrell described himself as a link in the chain. He said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are fought by joint forces and all the services help each other.
"I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for the Army guys who came in and saved me, the Marines who set up the outer perimeter, my SEAL team who I trained with and pretty much every other armed service in the military," Luttrell said. "We are definitely one team, one fight."
During his travels now, Luttrell said, people always ask him what they can do to help the military.
"My response - not reflective on the military - you need to live your lives the way you live your lives and stay out of our way and we'll get it done," Luttrell said.