Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

Mr. Speaker, the Navy SEALs are the United States Navy’s elite warriors. And last week we learned that they killed the most wanted terrorists of all, Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind the murders of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001. The news of his death brings some comfort to the families of thousands of people who died in the 9/11 attacks and to the families of those who have died in the war on terror. During their recent mission, these SEALs proved that when the peace of our great nation is threatened, we will stand up and fight.

Throughout the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, many other SEALs have performed equally heroic deeds. All Navy SEALs are elite commandos demonstrating the epitome of what we have in this country. One such example is local SEAL patriot, Marcus Luttrell, who I am proud to recognize and honor for his contributions to the global war on terrorism.    

June 28, 2005 is a date the SEALs will forever remember. It was the worst single-day U.S. forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began and it was the single largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history since World War II. Marcus Luttrell, a sixth generation country boy from Texas, survived to tell the incredible, harrowing events of that day. He is an amazing Texas patriot and “lone survivor” of a horrific gun battle that occurred in the mountains of Afghanistan. On this fateful day, three of Luttrell’s friends from SEAL Team TEN, along with 16 Special Forces warriors were killed.    

Luttrell was born in Huntsville, Texas in 1975. As a teen growing up in Willis, Texas, he began training at a young age for the SEALs, with a former Green Beret and neighbor, Billy Shelton. Luttrell and his twin brother, Morgan, also a Navy SEAL, trained every day using Shelton’s harsh techniques and methods. He taught them to be tough. In addition, Luttrell’s dad, a Vietnam veteran, taught his sons about weapons, survival, and swimming. Beau Walsh, Willis High School teacher and former Navy SEAL, prepared them on what to expect in SEAL training. During these years, the Luttrell brothers excelled physically and mentally.

After graduating from Willis High School, Luttrell enrolled at Sam Houston University, but left before graduating because of his desire to serve his country. With faith in God and country, at 23 year old Marcus Luttrell joined the United States Navy. He began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training with Class 226 in Coronado, California. In 2002, he graduated with Class 228 and became a member of the small, elite military force known as the Navy SEALs. He deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2005.

On June 28, 2005, he and three members of SEAL Team TEN were assigned to a covert mission, Operation Red Wing, in the mountainous region of Afghanistan. They were sent in to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a notorious Taliban leader with ties to Osama bin Laden. The four-man team was made up of Marcus Luttrell, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson.

Shortly into their mission, SEAL Team TEN encountered a small group of unarmed Afghan goat-herders. Although they believed the goat-herders empathized with the Taliban, the team was unable to confirm any threat. Lt. Murphy sought input concerning the goat-herders fate from the team but ultimately made the call to release the herders.

Barely an hour later, the SEALs were ambushed. They came under heavy attack by Taliban insurgents and were easily outnumbered one to twenty five. The enemy completely encircled them on that desolate cliff. There was one way in and one way out. Despite being wounded, Lt. Michael Murphy left protective cover and stood on a boulder to get a signal to place a phone call back to the base. Under intense fire, Murphy told the base he needed help, provided them with the SEALs location, and relayed the number of Taliban fighters. While he was calling for support, he was shot in the back, but he completed the rescue call while continuing to fire at the enemy. In the midst of chaos, he remained calm and risked his own life to save his team.

Murphy then returned to the safety of the mountain rocks and to his team to continue the fire fight. Ferociously engaged in a two hour gun battle and running low on ammunition Murphy, Dietz, and Axelson were killed. In the midst of this battle, a MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying 16 Special Forces crew, including 8 SEALs, were sent to evacuate them. The helicopter was assaulted and shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade fire. All 16 warriors were killed trying to rescue SEAL Team TEN.  

These SEALs fought with courage and heroism of entire legions of warrior when attacked by a cowardly, fanatical enemy. These brave Navy SEALs gave the ultimate sacrifice. These SEALs are true patriots. Dietz and Axelson received the Navy Cross posthumously. Lt. Michael Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions and his valor on the battlefield.

Luttrell was the sole survivor. He was blasted over a cliff by an RPG and knocked unconscious. Severely wounded and presumed dead, he managed to crawl seven miles before he reached a tribal village. They gave him shelter, aid and granted him protection under lokhay warkawal, Afghan code that guarantees safety and protection at all costs for a wounded traveler. Luttrell was rescued by the Green Beret six days after the gun fight.

In 2006, he was awarded the Navy Cross for combat heroism for his actions during Operation Red Wing by President George W. Bush. Luttrell remained in the Navy until 2007. In 2009 he was medically retired from the Navy.   I cannot say enough about this great man, this American patriot. He is a heroic representative of the State of Texas and an honorable defender of liberty and freedom.

Our young people who go to the valley of the gun and the desert of the sun are relentless, remarkable characters. They go where others fear to tread and where the faint-hearted are not found. These Navy SEAL warriors represent the best of our Nation. The bravery, dedication and patriotism of Luttrell, Murphy, Dietz and Axelson will not be forgotten by their friends, their family and freedom-loving people throughout the world. God bless these sons of America.

And that’s just the way it is.