Never Quit

The Red Raiders will wear special uniforms from Under Armour to honor the Lone Survivor Foundation

Nov. 9, 2013

Lone Survivor Game

Special to TexasTech.com

The two words stitched in eye-catching fashion throughout the uniforms the Red Raiders dawn today, from the shiny chrome helmets to the backs of the jerseys, seem simple enough.

Never quit.

How many of us, though, truly grasp the meaning of that nine-letter phrase? How many have been pushed to the very brink of what the mind, body and soul can tolerate, only to far exceed those limits in a way they may have never known existed?

The population is no doubt limited, but Marcus Luttrell is a part of it.

Luttrell's remarkable story is now well known, first through his New York Times bestselling account, and now through a soon-to-be-released major motion picture. In 2005, he and three members of SEAL Team 10 were dispatched to eastern Afghanistan with the mission of gathering intelligence on a high-level Taliban official. In a firefight that ensued, the other three members of Luttrell's team were killed and Luttrell himself was wounded.

A Chinook helicopter containing additional SEALs and members of a special-forces unit was sent in for a rescue attempt, but when a rocket-propelled grenade destroyed the helicopter, all 16 men on board were killed.

That left Luttrell, badly wounded, to walk and crawl for seven miles until he came upon an Afghan village that provided him shelter until American forces could arrive to rescue him ... six days later. The heart-wrenching story of loss, courage and survival, would be remarkable enough if it ended there, if Luttrell retreated to a quiet life in his beloved native Texas. But Luttrell's pledge to "never quit" wasn't confined to his harrowing ordeal in the Afghan mountains.

In fact, he puts the pledge to work each day through the Lone Survivor Foundation, an organization Luttrell founded early in 2010 that aims to enrich the post-military lives of service members who have suffered, whether it be physically or mentally, from their involvement in combat action.

"Just his story and his inspiration bring so many people to this foundation," Pete Naschak, the foundation's president, says of Luttrell. "Just by being out there and getting the word out about what he had to endure, that was kind of the fire that started the foundation and got it moving."

Naschak, himself a retired Navy SEAL with more than 20 years of service, says Luttrell began the foundation in hopes of providing a holistic approach to healing he experienced on his own Texas ranch, where he was comforted by serene sights and sounds, surrounded by the comfort of his family and close friends.

And therein lies the unique approach of the Lone Survivor Foundation, according to Naschak.

"I think what we're doing is really focusing on the family, the family unit, coming in for treatment," he says. "Servicing and educating the entire group is what we do different. There are groups that are doing a lot more recreational camps and their focused on having fun, and they might have a few therapy sessions there.

"What we are doing is intensive therapeutic work. It's a working camp. There is time for relaxing, but there is a lot real learning that is going on. I don't think there are a lot of groups that are taking people out to ranches, especially whole families, and doing this kind of work."

Among the methods used at ranch retreats for the military veterans and their families is equine-assisted learning, in which families interact with horses as part of a healing therapy.

"It's another aspect of learning that a lot of groups don't use," Naschak says. The most rewarding part of all this for members of the Lone Survivor Foundation is watching a renewed sense of hope blossom, not only in the veterans themselves, but also for their families.

Naschak recalls a spouse of veteran who profusely thanked him at the end of one retreat for all doors to recovery that were opened to hear family as a result of their work with the foundation. As she spoke, tears ran down her cheeks, and Naschak told the spouse he believed there was still more work to be done for the couple.

"She told me, `I would really like to come back, but I don't want to take anybody else's opportunity,'" Naschak says. "She was worried about taking the chance away from somebody else, and it meant that much to her that she didn't want to steal anybody else's opportunity to be saved the way she felt she was saved."

From the scenic ranch views to the close-knit bonds created, there is undoubtedly a Lone Star State feel to the Lone Survivor Foundation. It's why, Naschak says, the group has been eagerly anticipating its involvement in the Lone Survivor Game, which honors the memories of Luttrell's comrades and recognizes the 400 Purple Heart recipients who will be attendance, believed to be the largest-ever gathering of such a group on American soil.

"This is a big deal," Naschak says. "It raises a lot of awareness. I know Marcus is fired up to be out there and on the field. He's a homegrown Texan, so anything that involves sports, he loves to be a part of."




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