Navy SEAL: 'Starting off the fight on a knee is not the way to go'

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Marcus Luttrell

Friday’s Patriot Tour stop at the Merriam Theater is to feature participants such as Taya Kyle, wife of late U.S. Navy sniper Chris Kyle; retired U.S. Army Capt. Chad Fleming; and retired Navy SEAL David Goggins. Yet, if there’s one standout, it’s the charismatic now-retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who received a Purple Heart and a Navy Cross for his role in Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan in 2005. He also fought in the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq in 2006. Luttrell penned 2007’s Lone Survivor about his actions (Mark Wahlberg played him in the 2013 film), and he cohosts the TV talk show After Action on TheBlaze network. He talked with us about heroism, fame, and kneeling.

Q: How hard is it to be a hero?

A: That’s not true, not to be rude. It comes down to perspective. I don’t feel like a hero. I was the weakest kid in the bunch. The fireman was always my type of superhero. I made up this acronym: “Humanity’s Ever Revolving One.” Now, as a Navy SEAL, throughout my life, I trained to handle most situations. Most people on any given day don’t like to get in uncomfortable situations because they’re not trained to handle it. Every situation that I got myself into, I was trained to handle by the American people. I’m no hero. I didn’t even know I was special until I joined the military and saw the words “special forces” on my shirt. But anyone can be that. Every civilian in the world will have the opportunity to be a hero, because — at some time — they will, and you will, be put in a situation that you are not ready for. You will leap into that breach, and through that turmoil you’ll go through, you will become a hero.

Q: Is being a celebrity easy?

A: I don’t have time to be a celebrity — I’m a parent. As far as celebrity goes, I never wanted to be one of those either, or thought of myself that way. And it’s not about signing autographs — which is great, so don’t get me wrong. People understand what I have been through and how much the human body can take. Look, I had my butt whipped. It was a humbling experience, but it was an honor to be able to apply my skills on the battlefield. I’m no different than you. You were just never asked to walk in my shoes. If you don’t think that I could crawl inside your head for an hour or two and turn you into what I am, you’re wrong.

Q: Maybe you’re not comfortable with celebrity, but you’re on television, you’ve written books.

A: I do have stuff on my plate, you’re right. But this isn’t a deal where people know me for something I’m pretending to do. I had to go through the pain and put the work in, identify myself as a soldier.  Every time I’m on television or in a book, I am guided — have an overlook — by the military. I have been thrust onto you all out of combat. Once I got put into this, it was my responsibility to make sure it was done right. With the book, it was me talking about my teammates. I had guidance and guidelines. In fact, with the movie version, Hollywood went straight to the military, not me, because I was still in the service at the time. People don’t know that. I gave my perspective when needed, kept my mouth shut, and learned. Now, people see me on television, but no one feeds me my lines. You’re going to get my perspective. And I’m not laying out my opinion until I consider all sides.

Q: You’ve watched President Trump in action with his generals. He’s both praised them and berated them. Opinion?

A: The President and generals are all above me and have my respect. The president is our commander in chief, so he has to navigate the military as well as our civilian populace. Generals don’t mess around, either. There are reasons they have their stripes. These are grown men who don’t always get along — the most alpha men on the planet.

Q: How about football players during the anthem? Some see their actions as unpatriotic, others as defending their rights to protest the numbers of African Americans being killed by police.

A: At the beginning of every year, I go into training to get my body back in shape, and I get to see and know a lot of these guys in the NFL. They’re great guys. They’re young. The nice part of being young is that you have the intelligence — you just don’t have the experience to back it up. The anthem and the flag represent a lot more than what’s just going on in the present. … Look, there are places that are much darker in this world than football stadiums where Americans have to walk, and the only reason that we have a hope of surviving is because of that flag. The anthem is one of the few songs that every American can sing or at least hum by heart. From a military perspective, the only thing that a mother and father get when their child dies is an American flag. The reason that has weight is because every American stands behind it.

Q: And the knee?

A: Going into combat and starting off the fight on a knee is not the way to go. You can’t lead from a kneeling position. If we got something bad going on, we take a stand for it. You bow your head to your creator, you kneel before your woman, and you stand for your country. I know a lot of these football guys, and I love them. I hope they figure something out. Football is like religion, only we don’t have to go to church. I hope they know what they’re doing. They’re playing with fire.

Q:  When you’re doing this show, who is it for?

A: I know that I represent 19 guys when I walk out to do these shows — the guys in my regiment. When the flag comes up and that anthem starts rolling, you gotta stand up and be identified as American. I bow my head to the experiences that I have had. … I’m proud to walk in these shoes.

The Patriot Tour

8 p.m. Friday
Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St.
Tickets start at $45.
kimmelcenter.org or 215-893-1999