In June 2005, US Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell took part in Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan, to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. When three goat herders discovered their hiding place, the men voted to let them go. Shortly after, they were ambushed. Nineteen men were killed in the resulting gun battle – Luttrell was the only survivor. Wounded, he hid in a nearby village for six days before being rescued.
We were on a ridge watching the target when they came up behind us and started firing. I don't know why I survived. I'd put my foot one way, and step. And someone else would do the same thing and get hit. That's one of the things about being a lone survivor – you don't know why.
My skill level wasn't superior to anyone else's. I wasn't in any better shape than anyone else. We were all hit multiple times. I just outlasted it. So many guys were hit so many different times, they just bled out.
I watched all my guys die, but somehow I managed to crawl to safety. I escaped to the mountains. I must have been on my own for a day and a half – it's a blur really. I was dehydrated and bleeding to death. Eventually I was found by some local villagers. They took me in. At the time I didn't know why, but I discovered it's a tradition in that village. They take in travellers, people who are injured, and give them food, shelter and do everything they can to keep them alive – that includes defending them against enemies. I had gunshot wounds, broken bones, lacerations from the trees and rocks, but they took care of me until I was eventually rescued on 4 July.
I've never questioned why I survived, but I'm doing everything I can to repay the people who helped me in my recovery. I started the Lone Survivor foundation, and I work with a campaign called When They Come Back We Give Back, which helps veterans returning from conflict situations.
I remember the guys I lost every day – I play the scenario in my head every time. But I'm alive, and I don't take that for granted.