Have you heard of Marcus Luttrell, better known as the “Lone Survivor?”
I’ve known Marcus for years now, first introduced through friends and then seeing him speak several times.
For those who aren’t familiar, I’ll leave it to Wikipedia to fill you in: “Marcus Luttrell is a retired United States Navy SEAL who received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in June 2005 against Taliban fighters during Operation Red Wings in which he was the lone survivor.”
For some reason, he popped into my head this morning.
Specifically, I recalled a talk he gave about ten years ago. But it wasn’t the words he spoke at the lectern that still resonate with me today.
I was at this conference, and I went up to see Marcus before he went on the main stage. He was sitting on the edge of the stage but still as tall as I was standing. His therapy dog and consummate companion, Dasy, was with him.
Marcus didn’t look well. He was pale, sweating, and seemed to be in visible pain.
I said hello; made some brief small talk. “Are you sure you don’t need anything?” I asked.
He said he was good. He then apologized for not being really talkative but told me he’d just had reconstructive back surgery a couple of days earlier.
“Now, this is The Lone Survivor!” I remember thinking: war hero, ultimate tough guy. Marcus is also a man who’s sacrificed and given more back than most of us could ever imagine.
“You just had back surgery,” I asked in disbelief, “and you are here with a bunch of financial services professionals just to give us a speech?”
“Marcus, I am sure everyone would have understood if you had to pass. Why did you come today? What was so important?” I asked.
He wiped his brow, stared dead into my eyes, and growled with his deep Texas accent, “Cause I said I would.”
Since then, I have had the pleasure of speaking with Marcus a number of times – and under better circumstances. What I’ve found most profound about him is his fundamental need to share, to relive what happened. He’s hard-wired to have open conversations about his past so he can get better and stronger because of it.
Most of us will never know loss like his or feel pain anywhere close to what he’s experienced.
But I do believe we all can learn from our past, having vulnerable conversations that both allow us to heal and serve as fuel. And we can choose to have those dialogues – with ourselves and with those we love and trust – whenever and however we wish.
I’ve learned a lot about commitment and sacrifice from Marcus, about sticking steadfast to the task at hand because it’s the right thing to do, simply “Cause I said I would.”
And despite any pain and sacrifice it may bring, within that promise to ourselves is the secret to growth, to being who we want to see in the mirror.
We’re all survivors in some way, so it’s just about how we want to use it to propel us for the rest of our lives.
Thanks to Marcus, that choice is pretty clear to me.