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Exeter mom: New war movie honors her SEAL son's memory

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

January 07. 2014 10:03PM
Mark Wahlberg, foreground, stars in the new film “Lone Survivor,” based on the Navy SEAL operation in 2005 that claimed the life of Exeter native Dan Healy in Afghanistan. (UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

EXETER -- The new Hollywood war film "Lone Survivor" opens in theaters Friday, but Natalie Healy has already seen it three times.

That's because her son, Navy SEAL Dan Healy, was one of the 11 SEALs and eight Army Special Operations aviators killed in the failed rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2005 that has become the subject of the Universal Pictures' film starring Mark Wahlberg.

"We've all dealt with our grief over the years, but to see it on the screen, it's just an added component. It's just spellbinding and you're astonished at what they went through," said Healy, a longtime Exeter resident.

The film is based on the nonfiction book "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10."

The book was co-authored by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who was the only one to survive the mission.

He was one of four SEALs conducting surveillance and reconnaissance as part of Operation Redwing, a mission aimed at disrupting anti-coalition forces.

During their mission, Luttrell and the three other SEALs were ambushed by enemy forces.

An Exeter native, Healy, along with seven other SEALs and the eight Army aviators, attempted to rescue the four SEALs, but died when their helicopter was shot down.

Personal preview

Natalie Healy had a chance to preview the movie for the second time last month with Wahlberg and his family in Hingham, Mass.

When she asked if the movie meant something special, Wahlberg, who plays Luttrell, told her that it was unlike any other movie he had worked on. He told her that he and the others who were part of the film wanted to make sure that they honored those who died.

Luttrell also attended the preview with the Wahlbergs.

"I have never seen (Luttrell) look and sound so well," Healy said. "It was like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. For years I was worried about him."

Healy said her son insisted that he help rescue his fellow SEALs. He and another SEAL, Shane Patton, took the place of two others who were originally on the helicopter planned for the daring mission.

"Those are my men and I want my face to be the first one they see," he told the team.

Healy's son, who was 36 at the time of his death, is portrayed by Dan Bilzerian in the film. She said Bilzerian told her that he wanted to play Healy because one of the two men who were replaced by Healy and Patton was Bilzerian's friend.

"He wanted to honor Dan and felt very strongly about it," she said.

While there were some tears while watching the movie, Healy said she and the other families who lost loved ones on that mission are "a pretty tough bunch" and have lived with the grief for the last eight years.

"The movie was done in such a way and we knew they wanted to honor our men. It had a certain comfort to it," she said.

At the end of the movie, the names and photographs of those killed are shown on the screen as a tribute.

"It's a mesmerizing movie, but like my granddaughter Chelsea said, 'For some people it's entertainment, but for us it's our worst day ever.'"

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