I never knew the men who died on June 28th, 2005, as part of Operation Red Wings, but their loss still moved me greatly. At the time, it was the greatest one-day loss of life in the special operations community. It’s hard to fathom that it was 17 years ago today.
Matt Axelson was, by all accounts, a quiet, thoughtful guy who could have done anything in the world he wanted to. Still, he chose to become a Navy SEAL. Our boss here at SOFREP (and one of Axelson’s SEAL sniper school instructors) referred to him as “a real-life Cool Hand Luke.” Apparently, the tall, good-looking SEAL that everyone called “Axe” bore a strong resemblance to Paul Newman.
In remembering the men of Red Wings, I’m not going to retell the story of that fateful day or discuss the decisions made during that mission. That has already been done in many places by many people. There was a best-selling book and a blockbuster movie; the story has been told and retold. Rather, I’d prefer to show some photos and offer brief remembrances of these brave men, all of whom (with the exception of Marcus Luttrell) died in the service of their country. Had there not been a lone survivor, we would have never known many of the details of what happened that late June day on Sawtalo Sar, high in the mountains of Afghanistan.
It’s worth noting that Danny Dietz did not meet his end, as shown in the film Lone Survivor. Dietz had been shot numerous times (yet continued to fight), and Luttrell had him in a fireman’s carry trying to bring him down the mountain when he caught that last, fatal round. He was a native of Littleton, Colorado, and was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on 28 June 2005. If you want to learn more about who he was, a book was written about his life. It’s called Danny: The Virtues Within. It’s a good read; Dietz overcame a somewhat rebellious youth to become a SEAL. A gifted artist, he was arrested at one point for spraypainting graffiti before turning his life around.