By Jeff Schogol
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
ARLINGTON, Va. — A former Navy SEAL who was the only member of his team to survive a fierce fight with the Taliban didn’t get everything quite right when he recounted the battle and his subsequent rescue at an event this spring in Washington.
Marcus Luttrell, who was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in Afghanistan, spoke April 24 at the Army and Navy Club in Washington as part of an event sponsored by the American Veterans Center.
Stars and Stripes recorded Luttrell’s comments and included them in a profile of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, the SEAL team leader who was awarded the Medal of Honor for exposing himself to enemy fire to call for backup.
But after the story ran, Stripes learned some of what Luttrell said was wrong.
Luttrell, who wrote the book "Lone Survivor" about what happened in Afghanistan, told the audience at the Army and Navy Club that one of his teammates, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, survived for two weeks after battle, despite being shot in the head.
"When they found Danny and Mikey, their bodies were decomposing, rigor mortis had set in, the whole nine yards, you can only imagine," he said. "When they found Matt — people don’t know about this — he didn’t have that. There wasn’t any larva or anything like that. He survived for two weeks out there."
He went on to say that Axelson had been shot seven times by the time he left Axelson.
"That SOB lived for two more weeks out there with those injuries, and when they found him, he was in a clearing — someone had laid him there, you know," Luttrell said. "I remember I was still in the hospital when they found him — true testament to a warrior."
But the date of death on Axelson’s death certificate is June 28, 2005, the day of the battle, said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Tamsen Reese.