From left to right, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, Petty Officer 2nd Class Shane Patton and Lt. Michael P. Murphy. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy
The names of the main participants of Operation Red Wings, U.S. Navy SEALs Lieutenant Michael Murphy and Petty Officers 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson and Marcus Luttrell within many segments of the American population have become synonymous with bravery, commitment, and brotherhood.
Their account of courage in the face of adversity on the ridges and slopes of the mountains in Afghanistan in late June 2005 was chronicled in the book, Lone Survivor and subsequently made into a feature-length movie of the same name. And this year, a token of their determination now sits in the office of the powerful leader on Earth in the form of a sculpture created by a group of artisans at Valhalla's Forge LLC.
The team was tasked to establish an observation point, conduct reconnaissance of the area and capture or kill a high-value target. However, the mission was compromised and the team’s leader, Murphy, ordered the unit to regroup, establish a fighting position and communicate with the quick reaction force (QRF) to apprise them of the situation and request for immediate reinforcements.
The QRF received the message and immediately flew to the area in the MH-47 Chinook helicopter under the call-sign, “Turbine 33” to provide tactical support. But once in the vicinity, the approaching aircraft was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all 16 servicemembers; eight Navy SEALs and eight aviators of the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). Three of the four SEALs already on the ground were also killed in action due to small arms fire from the enemy.
However, this article isn’t directly about the men who died during Redwings. It is about then-Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Boyd Renner, one of the operators tasked with recovering the remains of the 19 deceased SEALS and Army Special Operations aviators, who wants to honor his teammates’ sacrifices eternally.
Renner, a now-retired Navy SEAL Chief Warrant Officer and co-founder of Endeavor Life Science said that his participation in the outcome of Red Wings was the most significant military operation he’d ever participated in.
He will use a safe and proven scientific method to infuse a tattoo depicting military “dog tags” with the molecular particles of an unlikely of source material found near the wreckage of Turbine 33 on his body to enhance his artistic expression of remembering those who died on June 28, 2005.
“After the first two or three days of recovery efforts of Turbine 33, we trekked up a 1000-ft incline to a make-shift landing zone so that helicopters can take the remains back to base,” Renner said. “We kneeled as the aircraft lifted up so that the thrust of its turbines and rotors wouldn’t knock us over. While looking down and away, I grabbed a large handful of soil, placed it in a bag and have kept it in my possession ever since that day. And now that the technology is available, I know that this is a great thing to do.”
According to Renner, the eventual tattoo will not just represent those who died that day but also those who worked tirelessly to secure the area and ensure Americans who were killed in combat came home to the United States.
“What I’m doing is about everyone who came together to aid our brothers in need,” he said. “From the [U.S. Army] Rangers providing perimeter security and blocking positions, to [U.S. Air Force] Pararescuemen assisting in retrieving [Marcus] Luttrell who avoided being apprehended by enemy combatants and Combat Controllers safely landing helicopters in an extremely austere environment. This mission made sure that families can visit their fallen loved ones at places of rest around the nation. And this could not have been completed without a team effort.”
Renner said that Everence’s patented process makes it is tremendously effective at maintaining its integrity within the tattoo. The reason behind this is due in part to the polymer (PMMA) used in the procedure. It is so small that it only resides in the dermis of the body and defenses such as white blood cells do not recognize it as a threat.
“That’s one of the remarkable aspects about Everence,” Renner said. “The product is extremely safe because it is developed under the strictest [quality control] standards in the world. We believe in its value so much that our artists and brand ambassadors are completely indemnified from legal ramifications if problems were to arise.”
Renner said that he believes in the product so much and its meaning that he has already taken DNA from his wife, Wanda and had it placed into ink and added to a tattoo in the form of a red heart on his calf. It’s the sincerest public display of love for his wife due to his constant travels while in the military and her continual battle with cystic fibrosis, he said.
“When you see her and others with this condition, you don’t know what they have to endure behind closed doors with the treatments and medicines,” Renner said. “I know motivated people. And she’s at the top of that list because she’s not letting the condition hold her back from what she wants in life. This is especially true when I see her put on her running shoes and go for a nice run.”
Everence isn’t just for tri-athletes or members of the special operation community, but for anyone who wants to convey the inspiration they receive from those around them, Renner said.
“You don’t have to be anybody ‘special’ to use Everence,” he said. “You can be a father or mother working long hours and multiple jobs to take of yourself and family. Everence allows you to keep those who have shaped your life with you always. And that’s why I am using it to pay respect to people who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives on behalf of other people in Operation Red Wings.”
Within the small but industrious confines of the modest two-story workshop of Valhalla’s Forge LLC in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a team of artisans meticulously created several tokens of appreciation for President Donald Trump and Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Britt K. Slabinski, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL.