‘Lone Survivor’: A Rorschach Test for the left

Red wing team

(The SEAL team, led by LT Michael P. Murphy and consisting of petty officers Danny DietzMatthew Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell, were on a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a Taliban leader who commanded a group of insurgents known as the “Mountain Tigers,” west of Asadabad.)

The following is less a review of the film, “Lone Survivor”, the true story of “Operation Red Wings”— one of the worst days in US Special Forces history than it is an indictment of Americans who hate the military, it is simply about 18 troops who were killed in action in the remote mountains of Afghanistan eight years ago.

The four-man  kill/capture SEAL Team lost its communications for air support and was trapped, overrun and three were killed in action; the fourth, Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor, who against all odds and wounds, lived to tell the story of his brothers in a book and now the film.

The film is face-paced, relentless, brutal and does not tolerate the ignorance of things military by civilians in the audience; they have to keep up as best they can; this is not to say it is hard to follow, it very much embraces my formula for a successful motion picture…. “A simple story told well.”

luttrell4 NC

(Photo: Marcus Luttrell awarded the Navy Cross by a real Commander in Chief, George W. Bush.)

This movie could have been made about Americans in any war as it is based on the truth that soldiers don’t die for grand ideas or governments, they die for the man on their right and on their left. After all, truthful movies were made in (or about) WWII –see: “Saving Private Ryan”–but they were never done about Korea or Vietnam or until now because of the steady rise of anti-military/anti-America forces from then until now.

Especially in Hollywood.

For the left, “Survivor” is a Rorschach Test.  All the negative reviews I’ve read are uninformed, simplistic, and dunder-headed and with one theme…. the movie failed because it isn’t a left wing movie.

Exactly… and it’s killing at the box office… a movie for Real America; screw the rest of ’em.

I have been fighting this military v everyone else battle since the ’60s– but “everyone else” is now largely populated, not so much by the doctrinaire leftists, but even worse:  by idiots–those who admit they get their “news” from the Comedy Channel. There’s a joke there, but sadly it is on us… on America.

us_navy_seal_trident_Never in history has the gap between veterans and civilians in America been wider; today the average person in America could not tell the difference between an admiral and a master sergeant. Yet in the late 30s and early 40s, grade school children learned to identify the silhouettes of US, German and Japanese aircraft.

Why? Because they were taught… with flash cards in the classroom; because they were Americans and we were all in a fight for our lives.

Hell, now they don’t even say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Rather than giving me hope for America’s future, “Lone Survivor” simply exposes the gulf between those who would sacrifice and die for America a and those who simply do not give a damn.

And that includes Marcus Luttrell and SEAL Team 10.

I have been writing about Operation Reed Wings since it happened:

2007 — Murphy up for Medal of Honor  

Murphy’s is third MOH of the Afghanistan War

Operation Red Wings planning map

Mapped photo of actual battleground  — Even the movie does not do justice to the impossible terrain faced by the SEALs or Operation Red Wings.

About Gary Alexander

Volunteer coordinator for veterans support network in North Texas. Now retired from his private psychotherapy practice, I specialized in the diagnosis and treatment posttraumatic stress, working with victim assistance programs, veterans and the Veterans Administration for over 20 years. After being wounded in action in Vietnam, I was medically retired from the Marine Corps and know first hand many of the readjustment difficulties and psychological stresses experienced by today's OIF and OEF veterans. I am available, at minimal cost, to speak at your functions on several subjects including veterans issues, Vietnam, the Medal of Honor, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and critical incident debriefings.
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10 Responses to ‘Lone Survivor’: A Rorschach Test for the left

  1. CMrok93 says:

    I have to give the movie credit for at least focusing on the soldiers of this story, rather than the actual war itself. Made me feel closer to these guys and be sad for them and their families when they got killed. Good review Gary, and overall, nice points.

  2. Gary, good to see you back on your blog.
    Some 35 years ago I made a vow never to support Hollywood’s propaganda machine after seeing “Apocalypse Now”. So for all these years I pretty much stayed away from anything they did feeling that it would denigrate the dedication and valor of my brothers. It was most likely Gods will since having PTSD I avoided many triggers in the process. With the help of my therapist I recently got the intestinal fortitude to watch two movies “Full Metal Jacket” and “Platoon”. Although I needed a couple of intermissions to get through them I survived. It has been suggested I try them again for the political underpinnings that I missed. Truthful movies are hard to come by as I did watch “Saving Private Ryan”.

    From what I read and heard “Survivor” has all these qualities so I will, in time, watch it. I also understand that Luttrell is donating some of the proceeds to “The Survivor Project” – that’s class!

    Stay well, Semper Fi,


    • You raise an interesting issue in the PTSD therapy matrix that has evolved since the first “Vet Center” rap groups in the late 70s in Denver and a few other cities in the country. I was trained and worked with some of the leaders in the field, most of whom were Vietnam veterans and civilians who “got it”.

      I facilitated closed “combat groups” of 7-10 veterans for periods of six months or long; this typically followed after a number of individual sessions to determine when the veteran was “group-ready”. These groups were some of the most rewarding experiences of my 20 years in the field.

      One of the things that quickly emerged among most vets was the “avoidance” reaction that you mention; who can be blamed for not wanting to stir up bad memories that most people cannot relate to? Ahh… but that is what the group was for.

      So I began bringing video tapes of HBO’s “Vietnam War Story” (1986-87) —–an anthology series that illuminated various aspects of the Vietnam war by dramatizing true stories of both combat and personal relations.

      I had the groups watch the 30-minute segments and then discuss what the their reactions; the results were always profound. We were able to deal with the underlying “triggers” very quickly, as all of us saw the same thing and it was fresh and in the “now”.

      A big plus was that I encouraged the guys to use the episodes to show and help explain to family and friends what it was like to be us.

      ….. a great bridge-builder.

      I always told my vets… “You can’t go around pain… you have to go through it.”

      Good for you Winch, SF and…. keep pushing.

  3. TonyF says:

    Good to see you blogging again. Hadn’t been here for awhile. I saw the movie with my bride of 40 years. She could hardly talk afterward and was in awe of the whole thing, as was I. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the book, which has much more detail. Hard to imagine better men than this anywhere. That they fight for each other is testament to what love is all about.

    Liked what Winch had to say too. When you’re ready, check out We Were Soldiers and Blackhawk Down. It’s all about the guy on each side of you.

  4. Thanks, T

    I can also recommend and HBO series from the 90s — Vietnam War Story — 9 episodes of 30 minute dramas which are all well done for the most part. Found it on Amazon for under $10.

  5. T, GA,
    Thanks for the reviews and I will consider the other films.

    I concur T- it’s always about he guys on each side of you!


  6. Murphy says:

    I love you my brother you’ll always be remembered from bottom of my heart :’),
    If i know that you were gone i will spent all the time with you..
    Last thing you say to me ‘if u graduate your master in LAW i will promise you to paris’
    All of my work is for you brother i miss You so much till
    We met again one day🙏
    Rest in peace brother
    I love you.


    • Funny….As part of my Master’s degree requirements I self administered an MMPI as practice in determining a likely diagnosis. Of course it was invalid from the get go but didn’t stop my PhD bitch of a wife from udinhg the test scoring in our divorce.

      Be forewarned… fully half of mental health professionals… shouldn’t be.


  7. MLF says:

    I saw Lone Survivor and I liked it well enough but was not overly impressed with it as a film. Let me say I am neither a Lefty nor a vet, but it does not make it to the top end of my list.

    The content is certainly there. I just didn’t connect with the character all that deeply. I liked 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi much better both as an ‘action movie’ (with no disrespect toward the fact that the ‘action’ in both movies was reality) and as far as character development. I admit I’ve never taken a Rorschach test but I have ‘failed’ an MMPI…at least from the provider’s perspective; she felt I was too suspicious of authority and clung too tightly to the idea of rugged independence among other things.

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