Marcus Luttrell, the author and narrator of the memoir, drives through a small Long Island town, accompanied by five other men. He parks his car and tries to find his destination. Luttrell has made similar trips before, in towns all over the country, and every time, he comes bearing horrible news. As he gets out of the car, he remembers a voice shouting, “Help me Luttrell!” He feels the “endless guilt of the survivor.”
The memoir begins after Marcus Luttrell’s military service in Afghanistan—and after the traumatic experiences to which Luttrell alludes here. Luttrell appears to be dealing with survivor’s guilt, a common form of trauma for soldiers who live through war while their friends die.
Luttrell walks to a little house with an American flag waving in the window. “Mikey’s mother,” a woman named Maureen, answers the door. Even before Luttrell opens his mouth, she weeps. Inside, Luttrell tells Maureen about Mikey’s courage in battle. It’s painful for him to talk to Maureen. Tonight, he’s going to visit Heather, Mikey’s fiancée.
Luttrell’s duty as a survivor of war is to visit the families and loved ones of his deceased friends and provide them with comfort. The experience is arguably as difficult for Luttrell as it is for the dead soldiers’ families.
Marcus Luttrell is making a “long and melancholy” journey across America, paid for “by the organization for which I work.” Luttrell is a Navy SEAL, and he’s been trained in “weapons, demolition, and unarmed combat.” He’s also a sniper and the medic for his platoon. He’s fought for his country because he’s a patriot, but this means having to deal with the deaths of some of his friends. Mikey died in the summer of 2005: he’s Luttrell’s friend, and one of the bravest people Luttrell ever knew. Two of Luttrell’s other friends, Danny and Axe, died that same summer. Luttrell is writing this memoir in honor of Danny, Axe, and Mikey, and “the indomitable courage under fire of those three Americans.”
Over the course of this memoir, Luttrell will describe his experiences fighting in the Middle East alongside his fellow Navy SEALs. In addition to the reasons Luttrell gives for writing the memoir, Luttrell uses Lone Survivor to tell an interesting story about the changes in the American military during the War on Terror, and to pay homage to the American military itself, which he sees as a strong and noble organization committed to protecting American citizens.