TODAY   |  December 10, 2013

Meet the real ‘Lone Survivor’

NBC’s Kate Snow speaks to former SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the man who saved his life, whose story is told in the upcoming film starring Mark Wahlberg, an account of “Operation Red Wings,” the failed mission in Afghanistan.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we back with the real story behind the movie "lone survivor".

>> this is based on a u.s. navy s.e.a.l. operation in afghanistan that ended up costing lives of those in the military. kate snow sat down with the real life survivor and the man that saved him.

>> they were all killed in the rugged mountains of afghanistan along with a helicopter filled with 16 s.e.a.l.s and night stalkers that tried to rescue the men. in the movie the only survivor is played by mark walhberg and his real name is played by marcus latrell and the only reason he is here is because of an unlikely friendship.

>>> the united states lost at least 17 --

>> the single deadly yesterday for american forces in afghanistan .

>> it was known as operation red wing .

>> u.s. military teams uncovered the bodies of dead navy s.e.a.l.s but the search continues for another still missing.

>> reporter: a team of four navy s.e.a.l.s had gone in to photograph and possibly capture a senior taliban leader.

>> there's been no contact at all with the seal that's now been missing for more than a week.

>> reporter: as the movie depicts their cover was blown when goat herders stumbled on their hiding place in an area filled with taliban supporters.

>> we can take them but we're going to need a new spot.

>> reporter: real life lone survivor marcus latrell remembers every second.

>> you had to make a critical decision .

>> we did. our target was down there and it was broad daylight. we ran through everything that could possibly happen including eliminating the threat.

>> we got three options.

>> reporter: the team knew if they let the civilians go they would probably alert the taliban .

>> in the end, you voted to let them go?

>> i did. it was -- yeah, that's what we did. did i want to kill them? sure, i did. absolutely.

>> do you regret the decision?

>> no.

>> reporter: this is what happened next, this video shot by the taliban .

>> do it.

>> reporter: the hollywood version is equally intense.

>> that scene in the movie is one of the most powerful i have ever seen. i'm watching on the edge of my seat for, i don't know, 40 minutes of the movie. does it do justice to what actually happened?

>> sure. the gunfire against the taliban . side of the mountain. everybody dies.

>> reporter: you fell down a mountain about five or six times?

>> it was more than that in real life . the movie was only two hours. the gun fight was over three hours long.

>> how did you get up.

>> we quit when you kill us. if you want to stop me, you have to kill me.

>> you lost all three of your teammates. it's hard to imagine how you would have the strength to keep going at that point.

>> you just keep going. you get up and fight harder. every time they take one of your friends down or teammates down it jacks you up a little bit harder.

>> reporter: marcus was wounded and thirsty when he came upon the man that would save his life.

>> he started screaming american and i was on my knees and had my gun on my hip and he was looking down right at me. i could see the whites of his eyes.

>> i was trying to tell him i wasn't taliban because i know that many enemy was looking for him in the mountains and i was trying to warn him that you must be careful.

>> he lived strictly by a code of honor among a tribe in afghanistan which includes kindness and protection for strangers.

>> they picked me up and starting carrying me to the village.

>> reporter: for three days he cared for marcus hiding him from the taliban and sending his own father to a u.s. military base which lead his rescue as depicted in the movie.

>> how many people have you lost in your family because of what you did for marcus ?

>> two are dead. two are very badly injured.

>> and i still bet you would do it again.

>> he says i will always have my honor and i will hold it until my death.

>> reporter: marcus still aches for the friends he lost that day.

>> we didn't win. we lost. you can't switch that in anyway, in a book, in a movie, you can't turn that around and make it look like we didn't win. we lost. we coming out alive isn't a victory. some people see it like that. it's not. it's not a victory at all.

>> marcus is medically retired. he is married and enjoying time with his kids in a ranch in texas. he has come to america twice since all of this happened and the u.s. military helped him early on. marcus is trying to get him a green card so he can come and visit more often. they have a friendship.

>> an extraordinary end to this story, kate. thank you very