SAN FRANCISCO (7/7/14)--The story told by Marcus Luttrell, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who narrowly escaped certain death after being ambushed by a large Taliban force during a mission in Afghanistan in 2005, was nothing short of captivating.
Marcus Luttrell, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, carries his message of "You go up together, and you go down together," during his appearance at the Credit Union National Association's 2014 America's Credit Union Conference. As Luttrell prepares to close the final general session, his service dog, Rigby, waits in the wings. (CUNA Photo)
The credit union crowd Thursday at the final general session of the Credit Union National Association's 2014 America's Credit Union Conference, seemed to hang on every word that the self-described "Texas-boy gunfighter" said.
The horrific sequence of dozens of enemy fighters ambushing Luttrell and three other squad-mates. The levity injected into the heavy material, as he joked about the mistakes the filmmakers made in recreating the story in "Lone Survivor." And the recounting of the terrible moments when he realized that his friends--his brothers--had been killed.
But the part of the story that may have resonated most with the credit union professionals in the room, people who themselves have made commitments to serve connected groups of members and communities, came at the beginning.
Luttrell shared how he as a teenager, his twin brother and several childhood friends approached a local resident of their hometown to train them for the special operations forces.
A Vietnam veteran, he was the first to teach Luttrell that teams, especially those in the U.S. Army Special Forces, succeeded and failed together.
"To kind of give you a little background on this joker--those of you from small towns you can appreciate this--he was our town psychopath, alright?" Luttrell said. "Literally, he was the guy you see in the supermarket just screaming at the bread."
"But," Luttrell continued. "He could get you right; he could get you ready to go into the Special Forces."
The very first exercise this man put them through was to do 300 pushups together, in unison, at 4:30 in the morning.
"We start trying to bang these pushups out, and we got to about 200 and something, and eventually some of us were going down while the rest of us were coming up," Luttrell said. "And he says, 'Stop what you're doing. As a team you're going to go down together, and you're going to come up together. You're going to live together, you're going to die together. You guys are a team. And you're going to start over.'"
The group repeated the exercise several times, and each time they failed to stay together, until their trainer, Billy Shelton, sent them home.
Though they may have failed, the message--one that Luttrell carried with him as a U.S. Navy SEAL--was delivered loud and clear: You go up together, and you go down together.