(GRESHAM OUTLOOK) — “Lone Survivor,” the gripping new war film starring Mark Wahlberg, has a local tie.
The movie, directed by Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) and based on a book written by the real lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell, tells the story of four U.S. Navy Seals on a covert mission in 2005 Afghanistan that turns deadly when they are ambushed by enemy forces.
Adding to the mission gone awry, a helicopter carrying eight Navy Seals and eight Army Night Stalkers sent to rescue the stranded Seals was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade, killing everyone on board.
Nineteen servicemen lost their lives on the mountain that June during the mission, Operation Red Wings.
One of them was 33-year-old Jeffrey Lucas of Corbett.
Petty Officer 1st Class Lucas was a member of Seal Team 10, and on the helicopter bound to help extract his teammates on the mountain.
A photo of Lucas appears at the end of the film, along with fellow servicemen who were killed.
Lucas would have turned 42 on Sept. 17, 2013. He is survived by his wife, Rhonda, and son, Seth, now 13, who live in Virginia Beach, Va. Lucas’s brother Jamie Lucas, and his wife, Indy, live in Corbett, as does their mother, Pat Lucas.
After a five-year effort to honor Lucas, who graduated from Corbett High School in 1989, a stadium was dedicated in his name — the Jeff Lucas Memorial Stadium — on Sept. 4, 2010.
‘We lived it’
Jamie Lucas said he’s not in any hurry to see the movie that portrays the story of his older brother’s death.
“You could ask any family member that was involved with the situation,” he said. “We lived it.”
“Lone Survivor” has grossed $38.2 million since it opened in theaters Jan. 10.
Jamie said he doesn’t want to take anything away from people going to see the movie. Go see it, he said.
“Maybe it can help other people to understand what happened.”
But for him and his family, the book and movie is Marcus Luttrell’s story, not his brother’s.
“If it goes by the way the book is written, it doesn’t really honor everybody involved that actually died,” Jamie said. “It’s really about him and him honoring the group he was with.”
Under the direction of Lt. Commander Erik Kristensen, Luttrell, played by Mark Wahlburg, and his fellow Seals — Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matthew “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster) and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) — are on a special mission to identify Ahmad Shah, a key Taliban loyalist responsible for the deaths of many American service members and believed to be hiding out in the remote mountainous terrain of the Kunar province.
In the movie, when three goat herders and their animals stumble across the men’s hiding place, the mission is immediately compromised and the Seals must abort. The men are forced to make an impossible moral decision: to kill the three captives, tie them up and leave them to die in the mountains or release them and be found out.
They choose the latter. By the time the four Seals retreat up the mountain to safety, they’re gunned down by Taliban forces and forced deeper into treacherous terrain.
After a more than three-hour battle, his brothers-in-arms are killed and Luttrell is the lone survivor. Half-dead, he is rescued by a Pashtun villager whose tribe lives by an ancient code of honor that mandates protection for a person in imminent danger of his enemies.
Much to the risk of his family and fellow villagers, Gulab fights to keep Luttrell safe until he is finally rescued by American forces.
See the movie, brother urges
Jamie Lucas encourages people to go see the movie: “I’m glad he made it.”
His mother, Pat, is trying to escape the movie altogether.
“It was a horrible, horrible tragedy and the mission went really, really wrong,” said the mother of two sons who grew up and attended school in Corbett.
Everybody has his or her own version of what happened, she said.
She tried reading Luttrell’s book, but couldn’t.
Hollywood’s version obviously stretches the truth a bit.
In an online report (historyvshollywood.com) describing the differences between the movie and real life, Luttrell is quoted as saying in the The Daily Beast that in real life, he didn’t know the helicopter had gone down as he was hiding in a rock crevice at the time.
‘They need recognition’
Seth, the son Jeffrey left behind, is doing really well, Pat said.
“He asks about his daddy and he’s learning more about his daddy,” Pat said. “Rhonda does a wonderful job with him. I get to see him a couple times a year. I miss him and I miss Jeff terribly.”
Pat said her son and the 15 others on the helicopter gave up their lives to save their teammates.
“They need recognition,” she said, unable to hold back tears.
Jamie also hopes people will honor the unsung heroes, who in the movie are recognized only at the end of the film when their photos fill the big screen.
The 16 Special Operations members who stepped on the rescue helicopter and lost their lives on that fateful day, June 28, 2005, included eight U.S. Navy Seals — Erik Kristensen, Jeffrey Taylor, James Suh, Jacques Fontan, Jeffrey Lucas, Daniel Healy, Michael McGreevy Jr. and Shane Patton — and eight Army Night Stalkers — Stephen Reich, Michael Russell, Christopher Scherkenbach, James “Tre” Ponder III, Kip Jacoby, Marcus Muralles, Shamus Goare and Corey Goodnature.
On the Jeff Lucas Memorial page on Facebook, Candace Miller, a longtime family friend, said she saw “Lone Survivor.”
She wrote, “Knowing someone who was part of the mission makes you take a deep breath just to step into the theater … Seeing Jeff’s face cover an entire movie theater screen was a very humbling and proud feeling at the same time.”
Jamie said his brother wouldn’t want any of the limelight, and “neither would the rest of them.”
“He just went in. He didn’t care. He saw a need. They knew there was a need. And they knew they might not come back,” Jamie said.
“I am very proud of my brother and I miss him every day.”
For him, every day is Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
Jamie said if people really want to honor those who have given their lives to serve, “There are a lot of things we can do here.”
Jamie and his wife have published “Ed the AED,” a book to help people save lives by learning CPR.
His brother is the main character and hero of the story.
For those still overseas, Jamie said, “We need to honor and respect them. We need to keep them in our thoughts.”