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Lone Survivor: How an Afghan and a Navy SEAL became “brothers”

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Lone Survivor” tells the autobiographical story of Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL who, after being ambushed and critically wounded in a mission in Afghanistan, found himself being rescued and protected by a Mohammed Gulab of a local Pashtun tribe.

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Luttrell started his career with the US Navy in 1999 then graduated with the SEAL class of 2000, earning his SEAL qualification training soon after. He was sent to the Special Operations Combat Medic course then deployed to Iraq in 2003.

Luttrell’s story of loyalty and honor began when he was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2005 with SEAL Team Ten. During Operation Red Wings, his four-man Special Reconnaissance unit was discovered by local goatherds, which led to an ambush. All of Luttrell’s teammates were killed, including those in an aircraft nearby. The incident was recorded as the largest loss of life in a single day in naval warfare since World War I.

Severely wounded, Luttrell made it to a river and collapsed by a waterfall. Mohammed Gulab, an Afghan of the Pashtun tribe, chanced upon him and made the decision to carry him back to the village and nurse him back to health. Luttrell was clothed and fed, and unbeknownst to him, had been put under the protection of Gulab as soon as he set foot in the man’s house.

Gulab and his village believed in and practiced Pashtunwali, a code of ethics that dictates that any man deemed to be under Pashtun protection will not be brought to any harm, at all costs. When members of the Taliban came to collect Luttrell, the soldier was astonished at the fierceness with which Gulab and the villagers warded the enemy off. Gulab declared that Luttrell was in his village, and that no one will take him, risking his life and the rest of the villager’s lives in the process.

Gulab and Luttrell formed a strong bond during the soldier’s stay with the village – a relationship that would last years. Upon his rescue from Afghanistan, Luttrell took Gulab back home to his Texas ranch. In an interview with CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper, Luttrell and Gulab stated that though they did not speak the same language, they had always been able to “get” each other and communicated well enough. The two consider themselves “blood brothers,” and Luttrell said he will be forever grateful to Gulab for choosing to save his life that day. Gulab answered that it was a matter of honor, and would do the same if presented with a similar situation.

This inspiring tale of hope, humanity, brotherhood and love was adapted into a 2013 feature film starring Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, directed by Peter Berg.

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