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Book Review: Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell - Wolf & Iron

Book Review: Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

There is a certain kind of man who has what it takes to become a Navy SEAL. There is a good chance that you and I are not that kind of man. Marcus Luttrell and the men he served with are those kind of men. In his excellent book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, Luttrell recounts in vivid detail both what it takes to become a SEAL and also what it looks like to fight and die as a SEAL.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, for those who long to know the hearts and minds of our greatest warriors. If this story were written 200 years ago, we would count the achievements of these heroic “characters” as those of legend, built-up upon story after story. But no, they and many (yet few) like them are real, and best of all, they love and serve this great nation.

Lone Survivor Book Review

I’m proud to say I read (or rather listened to on Audible) this book before watching the movie, which does not do the story any kind of justice, but, if it helps point people to the book then so be it, because the book is just excellent. This book is painful to read, simply because it’s real. It’s equally painful because you know to some degree how the story ends. The challenge, from a reader’s perspective is purely an emotional one: you are going to get attached to the men in the book who you know will not live. Danny, Axe, Mikey, all men of incredible valor, they will not live no matter how much power the author of this story has. And yet that is exactly the point; to love the men who gave so much and to gain respect for those who are still fighting. Well, mission accomplished!


In 2005, four Navy SEALs, Marcus, Danny, Axe, and Mikey, took on a recon mission in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Shortly after getting into position a group of goat herders stumbles upon them placing the entire mission in jeopardy and leaving the four SEALs with a difficult choice: kill the goat herders and face hell and likely prison from the liberal American media, or let the herders go and pray they don’t tell the Taliban. You might be able to guess which decision they made.

The story starts with Marcus visiting the wives and family of his fallen friends, quickly moves into the recon mission, and then jumps out again to his and his twin brother’s childhood, and then continues from there with the events leading up to those fateful days: basic training, BUD/S, SEAL specialist training, etc.

The Good

SEALs are awesome…really awesome

When I was in the Navy the SEALs were some kind of mysterious class of guys that I wasn’t even allowed to look at much less talk to. I knew they were tough but I really had no idea of why they were treated with such god-like reverence. I remember hearing stories of them rafting up to the ship (an aircraft carrier), climbing the massive ropes to the deck, and stripping down bare-ass naked like they owned the place. I have since gained some understanding of their special kind of awesomeness, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I really began to understand what it took to become a SEAL. Luttrell takes us into the world of BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) and through Hell Week and we get to see man after man — tough as hell guys too, no mamma’s boys — crack and leave, one after the other. Something in them just snaps.

It isn’t just the physical toughness of these guys, but it is their overall spirit that is being constantly examined: their character, their demeanor, the way they deal with stress and pain, not just that they make it through.

SEALs love America

I don’t think I have read a more patriotic book in quite a while. At several points in the story Luttrell points out the incredible affection and pride each SEAL has for his country. Perhaps that is one of the reasons our soldiers and our media don’t always see eye to eye. One of the great points Luttrell makes is that so many of the terrorist we are fighting against are doing it for money. They are getting paid to be evil. We often get them to give up information by giving them a few dollars and they completely turn on their own people. Our guys on the other hand, are not doing this for money, God knows, but out of love for country and the pride of doing what is right.

SEALs have a strength and valor that can’t be imagined

No doubt the hardest part to get through it the book are the deaths of Danny, Mikey, and Axe. It’s so difficult because they just kept fighting. Gushing blood, shot in the neck, head half blown off, it didn’t matter, they just kept fighting. What we hear, back home, from the media is that a “few soldiers were killed in combat”. We never hear about how it happened or how brave those guys were. It’s as if they just took a bullet and hit the dirt; clean and painless. But that isn’t the reality of war and something is missed when our sons and daughters don’t hear how heroic their fathers were in action. Marcus’ recounting of his escape from the immediate threat, after watching each of his best friends die, himself dehydrated to the point of not being able to speak, shot numerous times…is awe inspiring. I can’t think of a man still alive that I would be more proud to just catch a glimpse of than Marcus Luttrell. What a privilege it would be to tell my sons and grandsons that I lived in his age and saw that man with my own eyes.

The Bad

Nothing to report. Well, maybe some cursing.

There is a good deal of cursing in the book, which is to be expected, so just be warned it may not be something for the kiddos. I’m not going soft on the book, I just really enjoyed it. Granted I listened to it rather than read it, which no doubt changes some of my perception on the flow of the writer and whatnot, but the book, being a slice of American history, is just great.

Final Thoughts

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

There is so much more to the book than I can put in a review. I really wanted my oldest son to read it, but I don’t think he is quite ready for it just yet. We, Americans, don’t get the frontline report like we used to, mostly because it would distract us from our comfort and ease, which is why this book made such an impact on me. Get this book and check out Marcus Luttrell as well. This is a man you can follow and be proud of.

Did you read it?

If you read the book I would love to get your feedback! Respond in the comments below.

– Yarbrough

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