It’s hard to capture the authenticity of war on paper or on the big screen, but anyone who has read “Lone Survivor” knows the story Marcus Luttrell relates in his New York Times best selling book is a game-changer. On January 10, 2014, the book-turned-movie hits theatres and will no doubt continue to impact the way people view combat, veterans, and life after service.

In fall 2009, long before it became a major motion picture, the hard-bound tale of Luttrell’s Navy SEAL Operation Redwing found its way into the hands of Sherri Reuland. She finished the book in less than two days and when she closed the cover, Reuland felt overwhelmed with a sense of guilt that she simply “hadn’t done enough” for the nation’s military men and women. She encouraged two more friends to read the book, each of whom were struggling through personal challenges of their own, and both women instantly became what Reuland coined “awakened patriots.” The book gave them a more grounded perspective on what it means to struggle, and to survive.

The trio of Sherri, Ginger, and Heather began brainstorming with friends Leigh Ann and Mariae as to what they could do to awaken patriotism throughout America. Relying on their own skill-sets, they dubbed themselves the Boot Girls and launched a photo campaign to get people thinking about veterans. One by one, celebrities agreed to put on a pair of combat boots and pose for pictures to raise awareness. Roughly 35 photos into the project, Sherri received a call from none other than Marcus Luttrell, asking to join the movement and have his picture taken in a pair of boots. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since that day, the Boot Campaign has evolved from a series of photographs to a robust non-profit organization working to improve all aspects of veteran life, and Luttrell has lent his support every step of the way.

“The Boot Campaign’s mission is so important because it gives civilians a very tangible way to show that they support America’s warrior class,” he explains. “I think the potential of this thing is limitless.” As an ambassador for the Boot Campaign, Luttrell acts as an advisor and champion, furthering efforts to promote patriotism, cultivate awareness, and provide assistance.

The movie adaptation of the book, written and directed by Peter Berg, stars Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, with the other members of SEAL Team 10 played by Eric Bana as Erik Kristensen, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz, Ben Foster as Matthew Axelson, and Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy. The film focuses on the grit of Operation Redwing, but audiences will come away with more than just a clearer picture of combat in Afghanistan–they’ll better understand the type of person it takes to do that sort of dangerous and selfless work.

Now, four years after Boot Girl Sherri turned the first page in “Lone Survivor,” Luttrell’s story is reaching an even broader audience and the patriot awakening that inspired the Boot Campaign continues to grow. What we’ve learned in these last several years is not just that awareness fosters appreciation for our military men and women, but that it is the first step to change. Get YOUR BOOTS on!

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