SIMI VALLEY, California — Two noted veterans took to the stage on Monday evening at the Ronald Reagan Library. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is likely gearing up for a presidential announcement, arrived to introduce former Navy SEAL and author of Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell.
Perry, 65, served as a captain in the Air Force, and Luttrell’s story of surviving an ambush in Afghanistan is well known. Beyond the friendship and evident respect they share for one another, Perry and Luttrell said they share a special father-son-type relationship.
“Tonight you are going to have the great privilege to hear from [some]one who simply understood that he owed a debt–a debt to the individuals who had come before him,” Perry said.
We are in the presence of some extraordinary human beings and none more so than the one you’ll hear from tonight, who is just a regular, common country boy who found himself in extraordinary circumstances and realizes how fortunate he is to be here. And until he takes his dying breath, he will honor those individuals who served before him. … He will honor this country and what this country stands for around the world.
Luttrell, 39, took the stage, speaking candidly and using humor to draw the audience into his otherwise morose stories. He recounted his experience serving our country and his close ties to the Perry Family.
“I was the creepy guy in the attic,” he said, explaining that they had taken him in and were the only family he had when he showed up one day, unannounced, at the governor’s mansion in 2007.
Ever since that fateful day, Mrs. Anita Perry had helped nurse him back to health following extensive damage to his body from the war, including to his spine.
Luttrell recalled that he was never the strongest link in the SEAL chain. He said he was never the weakest, either, which meant those around him never had to worry about him breaking. He then told the audience about the day he found his breaking point. It was the day his fellow SEAL and brother in arms, Mike, was killed in Afghanistan:
I was sitting in my boots, shaking and he kept screaming, “I need your help up here man. I need your help.” And it got so intense that I actually put my weapon down over my leg and covered my ears … because I couldn’t stand to hear him die. … And that was the last time I saw him.
He said the one thing they could not put in the film about his book was how many times he and his brothers got knocked out. “Normally, you get knocked out one time a year, maybe. I got knocked out six times in the gun fights. I was tucking my brain back into my ears, man. My hands were shaking, [and] I couldn’t see anything, really,” he told the captivated audience.
One by one, each of his SEAL teammates was killed. Luttrell had escaped the deadly clutches of the Taliban several times. Then the day arrived when he thought perhaps his end was near, too. But his life was spared by an Afghani villager named Mohammad Gulab, who found Luttrell and took him into his home.
Luttrell spoke of the importance of discipline and respect. Although he said his father was never really around, he explained that he taught him to “respect yourself and respect … other people. And the only time you lose your respect is when you lose your discipline. And you’re the only one who can go that way.”
During his time on tour in Afghanistan, he said, “Only three people kept in touch with me: my mother, my brother, and Governor Perry.”
He added, “Governor Perry taught me how to be a good man and to be a good husband. Not only does he have to take care of his own family, but the state of Texas. That’s a big deal, [and] that’s important.”
Luttrell lived with the Perry family until he met his wife, Melanie. The couple has two children.
“That’s my family,” he said of the Perrys. And “they’re the best thing that ever happened to me. … Thanks for being my best friend, my father figure, and for teaching me the important values that I learned after the military. That’s why you’re the godfather of my kids, man.”
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.