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'13 Hours': a movie review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is based on Mitchell Zuckoff's book of a similar name and was filmed with the on-set help of Kris "Tanto" Paronto, John "Tig" Tiegen, and Mark "Oz" Geist, three of the American soldiers present during the attack. They have since said that the movie is accurate in its depiction of the events.

While some might expect the film to be politically motivated given that it was released shortly before the New Hampshire primaries, Hillary Clinton is never mentioned and at times it seems like director Michael Bay went out of his way to make sure that politics from either side of the aisle and the assignment of blame, of which there was surely plenty to go around, did not get in the way of simply telling the story of what really happened. Ultimately, the film accomplishes that goal quite well despite what many critics, who often sound as though they had their reviews written before seeing the movie, might say.

The film opens with Jack Silva (John Krasinski) joining a group of five other former soldiers that have been hired to protect a CIA outpost in Benghazi as part of the Global Response Staff (GRS). Their time there is largely uneventful until U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) makes an appearance to meet with local officials. The GRS officers warn that his security detail and residence at the U.S. diplomatic compound are woefully inadequate for resisting a real threat but little is done to rectify the situation. Those inadequacies are made all too apparent when the compound is attacked on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.

Despite repeated calls for help, the GRS soldiers are told by the CIA station chief to stand down before finally deciding to ignore his commands and join the fight. While the truth of that order not to go remains a subject of controversy, the soldiers involved have since stated that the command was given on multiple occasions despite the clear and desperate calls for help from those trapped inside the diplomatic compound. The rest of the movie chronicles the GRS soldiers' harrowing rescue attempt and subsequent defense of the CIA outpost. In the end, four Americans died with several more wounded before the team could be evacuated.

While there are several takeaways from the film, the thing that has stuck with me the most is the nature of the sacrifice made by those GRS operatives. As a couple of the soldiers point out in a particularly poignant moment while they wait for the next wave of attacks, Benghazi wasn't a war zone where they were defending American freedom or serving their country the same way as in their previous tours of duty. They hadn't been stationed there against their will but rather chose to accept an assignment with clear limitations on their responsibilities. Trying to save the Ambassador and his security detail was not their job, but that didn't matter because they felt a higher calling to protect American lives. As a result, they were willing to place their lives at risk without hesitation.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." That's a very biblical concept. After all, it's what Christ did for us and it's what he calls us to be prepared to do for him as well (Matthew 10:28). But while that all sounds noble and virtuous, focusing on that ultimate sacrifice (one that most of us will never actually have to make) can distract us from the daily sacrifice to which we are also called (Luke 9:23).  

The thing about Dr. King's statement is that when you really do find something for which you are willing to die, that principle, person, faith…becomes more important than yourself, and everything about your daily life adjusts accordingly. Does your walk with Christ reflect that kind of sacrifice? I know there are times when mine doesn't, and that's a problem. However, one of the great things about the daily nature of that sacrifice is that every day offers us another chance to make it.

So if your life and your priorities don't reflect the kind of sacrifice to which we are called, do something about it. Make your life a living sacrifice and every day God gives you will demonstrate to the world that he is worth dying for. Have you made that sacrifice today?

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