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Real 'Lone Survivor' SEAL: Coming out alive 'not a victory' 

Dec. 10, 2013 at 9:55 AM ET

The upcoming movie “Lone Survivor” recounts the harrowing experience of Marcus Luttrell as he and his fellow Navy SEALS fought off the Taliban in a remote Afghan village. But the intense battle depicted onscreen doesn’t come close to what actually happened, the real-life lone survivor said Tuesday on TODAY.

“The movie is, what, two hours? The gunfight was over three hours long,” Lutrell told NBC’s Kate Snow.

Based on a Luttrell’s memoir of the same name, “Lone Survivor” follows a team of Navy SEALS through a failed 2005 mission known as Operation Red Wings that cost the lives of 19 members of the U.S. military.

Luttrell, who is played in the movie by Mark Walhberg, was part of a four-man team assigned to a reconnaissance mission that centered on a senior Taliban leader. The crew’s cover was blown after a goat herder stumbled upon their hiding place. The three others on Luttrell’s team — Lt. Mike Murphy, Petty Officer Danny Dietz and Petty Officer Matthew Axelson — were killed in the battle that followed.

Marcus Luttrell's story is brought to the screen in the film adaptation of his memoir, "Lone Survivor."
Universal Pictures
Marcus Luttrell's story is brought to the screen in the film adaptation of his memoir, "Lone Survivor."

Lutrell said he had no choice but to keep fighting, even as he watched his comrades dying beside him.

“You just keep going. You get up, fight harder. Every time they take one of your friends down, teammates down, it kind of jacks you up a little bit harder,” he said.

“Lone Survivor” also recounts Luttrell’s rescue by the Afghan villager who saved his life, Mohammad Gulab.  

“He started screaming, ‘American,’ and I spun around,” Luttrell recounted. “I was on my knees, and I had my gun at my hip — safety off, tension down on my trigger. He was looking rights down at me. I could see the whites of his eyes.”

Gulab said he had been trying to warn Luttrell.

“I was trying to tell him I wasn't Taliban. I know that many enemy was looking for him in the mountains," he said through a translator. "And I was trying to warn him that you must be careful."

Gulab and others carried Luttrell back to their village, nursing him and hiding him from the Taliban. Gulab, who sent his own father to an American military base to tell them about Luttrell, has had two members of his family killed and two others injured because of his rescue efforts. But he has no regrets.

"I will always have my honor, and I'll hold it until my death,” he said.

Today, Luttrell is retired from the military and lives with his wife and their two children on a Texas ranch. Gulab has come to the United States twice since their first mission and and Luttrell has been trying to help him get a green card so he can visit more frequently.

But Luttrell still aches for his fallen comrades.

“We didn't win, we lost. You can't switch that any way in a book, in a movie, or anything like that,” he said. “You can't turn that around and make it look like we won. We didn't win, we lost. So me coming out alive, that's not a victory. Some people see it like that, it's not. It's not a victory at all.”

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