Your humble blogger spent part of last week at the DRI Annual Meeting in SanDiego, CA.  (I serve as Chair of the Mass Tort and Class Action Subcommittee of the Product Liability Committee.)

DRI is the international organization of attorneys defending the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation. DRI provides numerous educational and informational resources to DRI members and offers many opportunities for liaison among defense trial lawyers. DRI’s goals include: To teach and educate and to improve the skills of the defense law practitioner; to strive for improvement in the civil justice system; to be a counterpoint to the plaintiff’s bar and seek balance in the justice system in the minds of potential jurors and on all fields where disputes are resolved; and to assist members in dealing with the economic realities of the defense law practice, including the competitive legal marketplace.

The first day keynote speaker was former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell.

He received his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, California, just down the road from the site of the DRI conference.  He participated in multiple missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In 2005, Luttrell and his SEAL Team 10 were assigned to a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a high-ranking Taliban terrorist leader responsible for multiple killings and atrocities.

Luttrell shared with the defense bar lawyers his harrowing mission, beginning with when his team was accidentally stumbled upon by local goat herders.  They let the herders go as non-combatants, but apparently the herders immediately  told the local Taliban about the team. Within a short time, the four SEALs were engaged in a vicious fire-fight against a force of 100-150 enemy fighters. The SEAL team engaged the Taliban for several hours in a running fire-fight through the hills and valleys of Afghanistan, killing more than half of them.  All of the SEALs continued to fight after being wounded multiple times. Eventually, all of the other team members were killed. Luttrell barely survived after being blown out of a gap in the boulders by an RPG, and rolling down the mountain away from the bulk of the forces.

A helicopter trying to rescue the SEALs was also shot down when it reached the hill on which the battle was raging.

Badly wounded in multiple places, Luttrell managed to crawl seven miles to evade capture, during which he killed several more Taliban.  Eventually, he was  given shelter in a village, whose elders follow the belief that an injured stranger needing shelter must be given it.

Luttrell recounts his ordeal in the New York Times bestseller Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.

He told DRI that he doesn’t view his appearances as being about “motivational speeches.”  But it was clear that the dominant theme was applicable to anyone facing bad odds or tough times or difficult  challenges: don’t give up, don’t give in; you don’t know what you are capable of until you try.