Tucson man, D-M squadron rescued 'Lone Survivor' - WNEM TV 5

Tucson man, D-M squadron rescued 'Lone Survivor'

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Josh Appel Josh Appel
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

You may have read the book, or maybe you plan on going to the movies tonight to see ‘Lone Survivor.' But did you know that story has a Tucson connection?

The man and his squadron who rescued that lone survivor are right here in Tucson.

Josh Appel works as an ER doctor at the University of Arizona Medical Center and was a member of the 305th Rescue Squadron, a reservist Combat Search and Rescue team stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The reviews for the movie are good, big names headline it and it's expected to blow out the box office.

But to Appel, 'Lone Survivor' isn't just a movie. It's a part of his life.

He was a pararescueman with the United States Air Force Combat Search and Rescue Squadron-APJ.

On June 28, 2005 they got the call: an Army Chinook helicopter had been shot down during a rescue attempt of a four man Navy SEAL team, killing the crew and the eight-man team on board.

That's when he first learned about Operation Redwing and the men involved.

"Some missions you do and you don't think, ‘This is going to be a big deal.' This, everyone knew, was a big deal," Appel said.

The movie tells the story of Lieutenant Michael Murphy and his four-man team in Afghanistan.

Their reconnaissance mission was compromised by goat herders they let go. The team was surrounded by Taliban forces. Petty officer first class Marcus Luttrell was the lone survivor.

On July 2, Appel and his team flew through enemy fire to rescue him from an Afghan village.

"We got them on board and I don't know if the pilots heard me or I actually got on the mic and said, 'Go go go,' but I was pretty adamant about getting out of there," he said.

Two days later, on July 4, Appel and his team went back into enemy territory to recover the bodies of Luttrell's teammates.

That doesn't make it into the movie, but Appel will never forget it.

"That's the mission I thought for sure we were going to be shot down," he said, "because they knew we were in the area. They knew we were coming back."

Since then, he has gotten to know Luttrell and the families of the men who died.

He says he's glad the movie is out to remember them. But for him these men and their mission, will never be forgotten.

"Everyone deserves to know what his teammates went through and how it turned out," Appel said. "You don't want to go out and die for your country, but you will do whatever you need to make sure your teammates get home."

Today Josh Appel is Doctor Josh Appel.

He works in the ER at University Medical Center.

He was there Jan. 8, 2011, when the victims of Tucson's mass shooting were brought in.

He's started an international fundraiser in honor of the men who died, specifically Lieutenant Michael Murphy.

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