Matthew Axelson: Brother’s Keeper

Categories: American Grit Stories

The ill-fated mission that saw the life of Matthew Axelson come to an unfortunate but heroic end and also claimed the lives of eleven other SEALs and eight Night Stalkers. Operation Red Wings. It was a tragic day for the United States Navy, for the SEAL community, for the Night Stalkers and the Army, for all the United States as men of iron will and determination, literally fought till their dying breath. Raging against the enemy…through their sacrifice, one of their own was able to make it out alive. The story of their bravery and heroism is told by the one man saved by their sacrifice.

It was a tough decision and hindsight is always 20/20. The team had been compromised by three goat herders. We can talk all day about the shoulda-coulda-woulda, but what happened, happened. The three Afghans lived, and subsequently set a numerically superior force on the SEALs. An intense firefight followed. Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz, Matthew Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell gave as good as they got, but in the end, were outnumbered.

We’ve all seen the movie. But no movie can replicate the intensity of a real gunfight…the real pain when a bullet rips through flesh time and time again.

Matthew, despite being wounded, continued to fight, providing cover for his teammates, his brothers.

Matthew Axelson
Lt. Michael Murphy and SO2 Matthew Axelson

Shoot. Breathe. Shoot. Breathe. Shoot. Breathe.

Rounds snapping by, splintering trees and turning the rock into dust. Matthew Axelson held the line as long as he was able, despite being wounded. With a calm cool demeanor, despite the hell going on around him, Alexson volunteered to provide cover fire while his remaining team members could get to safety. His only thoughts were for his brother’s survival.

Operation Red Wings taught us many lessons. Hard lessons. Lessons we wished were learned another way. It also taught us that the bond forged amidst gunfire and battles, from time immemorial is unbreakable and men will still sacrifice their life so their brother may keep his.

For his actions that day, he was awarded the Navy Cross.





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2 thoughts on “Matthew Axelson: Brother’s Keeper

  1. Sorry 5 out of 5, not 4. They found him with his side arm locked back and out of ammo. He fought until the end.

  2. It’s hard to read these memorials-as well it should be. It’s even harder to see the man when he stood tall-proud but unassuming, ready and willing-as well it should be.
    It should be hard. I hope to God it’s hard. When the day comes that it is no longer painful we’ve lost far more than a warrior.
    May they all rest in peace.