Lone Survivor: Heroism on Audio

November 11, 2009

Lone Survivor is the story of true-American hero Marcus Luttrell, the Houston-born Navy Cross and Purple Heart Recipient, as told to military-thriller writer Patrick Robinson and read by Kevin T. Collins. Luttrell was the only member of his four-man SEAL team to survive a brutal betrayal by Taliban-sympathizers. You might recall that this was the cut-off team of heroes which a Chinook helicopter full of nineteen other heroes tried to rescue–but their helicopter crashed and all were killed. This is a story to listen to again and again.

I listened to it on my way to work as soon as the 5 CDs came out. That was a total about six hours of commuting time.

With this audio-book I experienced the travails and adventures of the sole survivor of SEAL Team 10, the creme-de-la-creme of our Navy’s special forces, sent to the Pashtun province of Kunar, that beautiful but deadly place, in northeastern Afghanistan during Operation Redwing (June 28, 2005). The intent of the mission was to capture a high-ranking Taliban leader accused of murder and other nefarious deeds who was supposedly hiding out in the impenetrable terrain of the Hindu Kush.

One of the most interesting and ironic parts of this story is right at the beginning when three seemingly-neutral Afghan goatherders stumble upon the SEAL team as they navigate their way through the combat zone. True Americans, the SEALs show mercy and do not kill the folks they deem to be just innocent civilians. But the goat-herder turn the compassion and humanity of the Americans against them by running and telling the Taliban all about the SEALs and their location as soon as they are allowed to live and released. This audio-book chronicles the events of the ensuing battle that killed Luttrell’s teammates and offers insight into the training of the elite SEAL warriors and the compassion and care of the Afghanis who enabled our storyteller alone, the teamleader of the SEALS, to survive.

Hearing the way this story unfolded reminded me of the real definition of tragedy, which is to say, I wonder now if kindness toward those who are unkind is the American fatal flaw. The retelling of Luttrell’s crawl for seven miles to safety compared in my mind with the long heart-rending crawl of the poor person in Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge.

Kevin T. Collins, who does the reading of Luttrell’s recounting, has the consummate firm and steady hero’s voice for this story. His is the voice you will remember from Kyle Mills’s The Lords of Corruption, that strange political corruption amongst the NGOs in Africa story with his great and careful wording of his relationship with Annika Gritdal, the beautiful Scandinavian aid worker. And Collins’s voice is the same voice which will be remembered for reading Robert Hicks’s A Separate Country (Hachette Audio, 2009), the story of CSA General John Bell Hood, set in New Orleans after the Civil War.

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