"When I came into the Perry family, it was one of those deals where it was the only family I had," says Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell didn’t stop being a “lone survivor” until long after he escaped a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan in 2005.
The Houston native – whose bestselling 2007 memoir, Lone Survivor, was adapted into a 2013 film starring Mark Wahlberg – had no safe haven and no family to turn to when he first arrived back in the U.S. He suffered many ailments, both mental and physical. He became addicted to painkillers.
But that all changed after Luttrell showed up at former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s door unannounced one day in the spring of 2007.
The two men developed a father-son-like bond in the months that followed as Perry, 65, and his wife, Anita, nursed Luttrell back to health. Perry helped Luttrell find a spine surgeon to fix his back. He took the recovering Navy SEAL bass fishing. He and his wife even made Luttrell a bedroom in their home.
“I was the creepy guy in the attic,” Luttrell, 39, jokes in a new interview with The Washington Post.
“When I came into the Perry family, it was one of those deals where it was the only family I had,” he says. “I didn’t have that father figure growing up like that, somebody who genuinely cared about me Governor Perry taught me how to be a good man.”
As Luttrell rose to fame, the Perrys supported him unconditionally. Now Luttrell may have a chance to return the favor as Perry prepares to launch his second presidential campaign. According to The Washington Post, the war hero will likely join the Republican candidate on the campaign trail to tell the story of their friendship.
“I’m not sure I can put into words how my wife and I were attracted to him or he was attracted to us,” Perry tells The Washington Post. “I kind of put that in the ‘grace of God’ category.”
It could be because Perry, a former Air Force pilot who served as the head of the Texas National Guard during his governorship, has a military background – something he believes will give him an edge in the 2016 election.
“Those experiences paint my worldview,” Perry says. “All of that gives me a unique perspective about what these young people go through and the impacts on themselves and just as importantly their families.”
Perry and his wife met Luttrell by chance while they were vacationing at the Hotel del Coranado outside San Diego, The Washington Post reports. It was 2006, the year after Luttrell returned as the only survivor of a four-man mission to kill Ahmad Shah, a top Taliban leader in eastern Afghanistan. He was undergoing physical therapy at Naval Base Coronado at the time, and he was chosen to give the then-governor and his wife a tour of the naval facilities.
Perry kept in touch with Luttrell via email, including during his 2006 deployment to Iraq, and told him he was welcome to visit the Perrys in Austin anytime. One day Luttrell took him up on the offer, showing up unexpectedly outside the governor’s mansion. “It was a safe haven,” Perry said.
When the Perrys moved into a temporary home while their mansion was undergoing renovations, they made room for Luttrell on the third floor. Anita Perry, or “Lady Perry” as Luttrell calls her, set him up with an air mattress and a TV, and gave him advice on his love life.
Luttrell met his future wife, Melanie, in 2010 and when he introduced her to the Perrys, he recalls telling her, “That’s my family.” Now the Luttrells have two children, and Perry is their godfather.
Most people know Luttrell as the “Lone Survivor.” But Perry says, “There are 1,000-plus just like him.”
“They just didn’t have a governor to intervene. And that pisses me off.”