U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell spent five days hidden in a village in the warring Kunar Province in northeastern Afghanistan in 2005. He was essentially paralyzed from the waist down and suffering from a series of gunshots and shrapnel wounds.
His guardian, an Afghan, took up arms against a local Taliban militia to protect the SEAL, whose mission to the harsh mountainous region resulted in an ambush that killed the other three members of his team.
Luttrell went on to document the harrowing account in a book, "Lone Survivor." He spoke at the Newseum in Washington, DC Thursday night to screen the film version, directed by Peter Berg and starring Taylor Kitsch.
The man responsible for saving Luttrell was also in Washington on Thursday.
The retired petty officer first class described in great detail the ordeal he went through over that week in June 2005, including the litany of severe injuries he sustained fighting the Taliban troops. He had 11 "in and out" gunshot and shrapnel wounds to his legs and midsection, leaving him effectively paralyzed from the waist down.
Luttrell entered that war-torn mountain slopes of Kunar Province in northeastern Afghanistan with a four-man reconnaissance unit as a part of Operation Red Wings. Their mission was to locate local Taliban commander Ahmad Shah and disrupt the militia's activities there.
The operation went off course when the four SEALs were discovered by a group of shepherds. Under the leadership of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, the team let the shepherds go free, despite concerns they might alert the local Taliban to the team's presence.
The team retreated to a defensive position, but were unable to send a message to their headquarters of the change in mission. They were ambushed by Taliban fighters, resulting in the deaths of all but Luttrell.
After hiding himself in a crevice, he had to crawl seven miles to where he was eventually saved by Mohammad Gulab, a Pashtun, who would go on to risk his own life to protect Luttrell from retribution by the Taliban.
Luttrell wrote a note with his location, which another member of the village walked to the nearest U.S. military facility. A pararescue team ultimately saved Luttrell.
Moderator Tina Brown, editor of the Daily Beast which hosted Thursday's "Hero Summit," asked Luttrell after the screening whether he still keeps in touch with Gulab.
"Oh yeah. He's here," Luttrell responded quickly, leaving the audience momentarily stunned. "He's back at the hotel."
Lutrell, flanked by actor Taylor Kitsch and director Peter Berg, listed the Taliban's horrific retribution toward Gulab for choosing to defend Luttrell while people in his village tended to the SEAL to keep him alive.
The Taliban has killed many members of Gulab's family, Luttrell said, burned down his house and blew up his car.
Despite all of this, Gulab has no intention of leaving Afghanistan, though he does frequent the U.S. to visit with Luttrell.
Gulab assisted Luttrell due to an Afghan code of honor known as Pashtunwali. Among its main principles includes providing asylum to a person against his enemies and to protect him at all costs.
Luttrell recovered from his wounds and redeployed to Iraq. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in the 2005 operation. His team leader, Mike Murphy, became the first to receive the Medal of Honor in the Afghanistan war. The film "Lone Survivor" will be widely released in January 2014.