If you saw the movie “Lone Survivor,” you know that words really can’t explain the pride one feels after seeing the heroism on screen. Based on Marcus Luttrell’s New York Times bestselling memoir, director Peter Berg explores the unbreakable bond of brotherhood in a film that captures the real life struggles of these proud Navy SEALS. “Lone Survivor” tells the incredible tale of Operation Red Wings, a mission about four Navy SEALs ambushed by the enemy deep in the mountains of Afghanistan. As the soldiers are confronted by unthinkable odds, they must find reserves of strength and resilience in order to fight to the finish. Before the “Lone Survivor” launch on digital HD and Blu–ray June 3rd, Universal Studios brought in a highly-skilled press team (Bullz-Eye, of course, was a key player) to experience first-hand the type of training SEALS go through. Also included in this experience was the opportunity to meet and spend time with Berg and Luttrell, the real-life Navy SEAL who received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in Operation Red Wings.
Regardless of what happened on this trip, we knew that just by staying at the Hay-Adams Hotel, it was going to be a memorable weekend, as the Hay-Adams is literally right across the street from the White House and is basically a 5-star hotel. Yes folks, there are times when even Bullz-Eye has to clean up and hang with the elite members of our society. But don’t worry, there were no problems, because we know when to behave! After a quiet evening on Thursday, we were up and ready to hit the road at 5:45 am to take part in true Navy SEAL experiences, including weapons training with Uzis, machine guns and AK 47s, and for those who think rappelling is challenging, that event was available as well.
It was an early start, but that was necessary, as the Extreme SEAL Experience was taking place in Norfolk, VA, which took us around 4 hours in the Media Elite Bus. We eventually arrived at the Extreme SEAL Experience, which is owned and operated by real-life badass Don Shipley. Per Wikipedia, Don Shipley is a former U.S. Navy SEAL, expert trainer and media personality who provides his expertise to many media organizations. He retired after 24 years as a SEAL Senior Chief in 2003. He served in SEAL Team ONE, SEAL Team TWO, the Naval Special Warfare Center, BUD/S and Naval Special Warfare Group TWO in Little Creek, Virginia as a SEAL Advanced Training Instructor. Shipley conducted operations in Bosnia, Liberia and Africa while at SEAL Team TWO, and became the first non-corpsman SEAL to graduate paramedic school. He served in eight SEAL Platoons, was Platoon Chief in five, and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism during a Search and Rescue Mission.
Setting records for immense water and land demolition shots and running high-risk training courses, he also served as an Explosives Expert instructing police departments across the country in Booby Traps and Improvised Explosive Devices. When not in a SEAL Platoon or deployed overseas, his time was spent running blocks of training for SEALs in air operations, land warfare and demolitions. After retirement, he became a Blackwater Security Contractor, spending a year in Pakistan and Afghanistan fighting the war on terror. Don also runs a training course with fellow former U.S. Navy SEALs teaching and training men who aspire to become U.S. Navy SEALs. Don is also known to be at the forefront of bringing Stolen Valor to the limelight in the media, going after and exposing military impostors and frauds.
Knowing that this place was no joke, we brought our A-game and came away impressed as hell at what these men do. It’s not often that one gets a chance to send the day with and interview a person like Don Shipley, and when you are instructed to do perform a function at the Extreme SEAL Experience and do not follow orders, brother Shipley will remind you that your performance or attempt was an “Epic….Fail.” There were plenty of automatic weapons that we fired under serious supervision and flew in a helicopter. This was an eye-opening experience, and after a short time, you realize that with Don Shipley, you are listening to a highly skilled soldier who is also an expert at communications. Interviewing Shipley was an honor, and I hope he enjoys many years doing whatever he enjoys after serving our great nation with distinction.
After a long ride back to home base in D.C., we cleaned up and headed up to the 9th floor of the Hay-Adams for a dinner with Marcus Luttrell and Peter Berg. The balcony of our banquet room overlooked the White House as we enjoyed the breathtaking view while taking plenty of photos and video. We sat down for dinner with Marcus and Peter, and from the start, they were both very easy to talk to and were straight up about their experiences and what they want to do going forward to help soldiers and their families. You learn quickly that Marcus Luttrell is a very smart man who is still dealing with all of the casualties of war. It’s hard to imagine what soldiers like Marcus had to endure to survive and the amount of pride they have in serving our country. “Lone Survivor” is a testimony to the commitment and bravery of our men and women in uniform and it’s a must see for all Americans! The insight that Peter Burg gave into the filming of “Lone Survivor” and the amazing job that Mark Wahlberg did in portraying Luttrell solidifies their decision in casting the actor for this important role.
On Saturday night, we attended the red carpet and award presentation for the GI Film festival at the Old Town Theatre in Alexandria, VA, which is the country’s select award-winning organization preserving the stories of American veterans. The seven-day festival, known as “Sundance for the Troops,” features 56 film screenings and premieres, celebrity meet-and-greets, red carpet soirees and exclusive embassy and Capitol Hill events. The week-long festival film line-up covers every aspect of military triumph and struggle, from the Civil War to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to showcasing courage on the battlefield, the GIFF 2014 line-up also brings attention to issues facing returning GIs on the home-front, including post-traumatic stress, family issues and unemployment. Its mission is to bridge the gap of military and the general public with dynamic films and special events. It was a beautiful evening and the red carpet was electric with actors like Adam Driver (HBO’s “Girls” and soon starring in the new “Star Wars”), Michelle Monagham (“Fort Bliss,” “Mission Impossible III”), and of course, director Peter Berg and the real Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell. The awards ceremony was touching and the reception for the award-winning “Lone Survivor” team and Marcus Luttrell for the GI Hero Award was well deserved. An after party at the United States Patent and Trademark Office Museum was very cool with food, beverages and great conversation.
This was one of those press trips that really strengthens your admiration and support for those who sacrifice their lives for us every day of the year. When you get a chance to view “Lone Survivor,” remember that the film is based on a true story and the man behind the movie is still fighting for his fellow soldiers. Marcus Luttrell has a certain presence about him, and after spending time with the guy, you can just tell that he’s the kind of person who will go to any length to fight for what he believes in. When “Lone Survivor” is released on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 3rd, a whole new crop of admirers of Marcus Luttrell and Peter Berg will be among us!