A friendship that transcends politics
Monday evening, Governor Perry introduced Navy SEAL of ‘Lone Survivor’ fame at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s Perspectives on Leadership Forum. There, they discussed their unique bond.
“These are extraordinary people that step forward and serve their country,” Perry said of military service personnel. “Tonight you are going to hear from one who simply understood that he owed a debt. A debt to the individuals who had come before him. In the form of William Barrett Travis at the Alamo, his father before him, my dad, all of those men and women who have stepped forward to keep this country free. We are incredibly blessed… we are in the presence of some extraordinary beings. And none more so than the one you’ll hear from tonight. Just a regular, common, country boy who found himself in extraordinary circumstances.”
Gov. Perry’s relationship with Luttrell is one markedly different from the overplayed politician parades soldier for political expediency schtick.
In 2007, two years after he survived a Taliban onslaught in Afghanistan, a distressed Luttrell showed up at the Texas Governor’s mansion and asked to speak with Rick Perry.
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post tells the heartwarming story:
…While undergoing physical therapy at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego, Luttrell met Rick and Anita Perry by happenstance. The Perrys, who have two grown children, were vacationing at the Hotel del Coronado and Luttrell was assigned to give them what he called a “dog and pony” tour of the naval facilities.
Perry kept in touch, sending Luttrell e-mails, including throughout his 2006 deployment to Iraq, and extended an open invitation to visit him in Austin. Luttrell took him up on it, showing up at the security guard post outside the governor’s mansion one day. “It was a safe haven,” Perry said.
Later that year, when the Perrys moved into a temporary residence for the mansion’s renovation, they turned a third-floor space into a bedroom for Luttrell. Anita Perry (Luttrell calls her “Lady Perry”) gave him an air mattress and a television, which he liked to leave on while he slept.
“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 said. “I kind of put that in the ‘grace of God’ category.”
Over the ensuing months, a virtual father-son relationship blossomed, the two men said. The governor and his wife, Anita, helped bring Luttrell back to health. Perry used the power of his office to find Luttrell a spine surgeon to fix his back. The Perrys gave him a spare bedroom — “I was the creepy guy in the attic,” Luttrell recalled. The governor took him bass fishing, the first lady counseled him about his love life, and as Luttrell became famous — first with a best-selling memoir, “Lone Survivor,” and later in the movie adaptation — they were his rock.
“When I came into the Perry family, it was one of those deals where it was the only family I had,” said Luttrell, who was born in Houston and grew up in Texas near the Oklahoma border. “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.”
Through the course of his recovery, Luttrell developed an addiction to prescription pain killers, as the WAPO explains, “As Perry tells it, Luttrell was lost in a bureaucratic maze at the Pentagon and at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “He needed stuff done,” he said, “and all he was getting was a sack full of pills.” So Perry stepped in and called Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who made him eligible for Tricare. “There are 1,000-plus just like him,” Perry said. “They just didn’t have a governor to intervene. And that pisses me off.”
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