Posted on March 06, 2015
Busse Combat Knife Company is deeply honored to have had the privilege of creating the "AXE Hammer" tribute knife for Matt Axelson of Seal Team 10 and the Operation Red Wings mission, which was made famous by Marcus Luttrell's #1 New York Times bestseller, Lone Survivor. Below is Jeff Axelson's heart-felt story of the journey toward honoring his brother's ultimate sacrifice...
"What would you do to save a life?"
My brother and I asked each other that question numerous times during the 29 years we had together. We wondered...if that moment would come, when we had to act, would we have the courage and the strength to respond without thought of our own skin. Would we risk everything to try to help?
Shortly after September 11, 2001 we had this conversation.
"Do you think you would have the courage to risk your life to save a friend?", Matt asked me. The fog was rolling in around us at our house in San Diego. The water in the air was thick enough to make the fire snap, and the hot dusty coals were dwindling but alive with a subtle glow as the damp chill of the night settled in around us.
Matt was about to begin his third phase of BUDs training and was on a short weekend leave prior to heading to the island. We were sitting opposite each other at our fire pit, with cold beers in hand, as we began a conversation I will never forget. Matt sat across from me, staring at the iron red coals with an uncertain look on his face. Our jovial night was about to take a more serious tone.
"Hey, " he began, pausing to get his thoughts right, "I never thought it would be a foregone conclusion that I would be seeing a fight when I entered the Teams. I thought that perhaps I would get the chance to answer that call, but I never knew for sure until today. I hope that I never get in a rough situation, but if I do, I hope I will have the courage to see it through."
Matt was killed in action on the 28th of June 2005, fighting to keep his Teammates alive. Giving every ounce of his heart and soul to win the fight he was in. I am proud of him for that - for never giving up, for having the courage to bring the fight to the enemy, but, more importantly, for proving what I knew he would do if ever in a situaltion like we discussed growing up. "Would you have the courage to fight to the last breath for the ones you love?"
We decided to launch a business that honored the sacrifices of Matt and of all those like him. Many in our family history have served. Grandpa and his brother were career Navy and were on the USS Pennsylvania in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, Grandma was a Marine for the duration of WWII, Dad and Uncle Dean were in the infantry and fought in the Vietnam War, so this sentiment runs deep with us.
My introduction to Jerry was a powerful yet subtle one. Shortly after Operation Red Wings tragic close, I received a package in the mail. Inside I found a beautiful blade. No fanfare, just two simple words and 5 stars engraved on its earth colored steel. "Never Forget*****". The only note that was with it was from one of Matt's teammates, who is now one of my closest friends and brothers. It simply stated that there were 50 of these one of a kind knives made and given to SDVT-1, and "the maker wanted you to have on and he requested to remain anonymous."
I posted that knife above my desk for years. Next to it sat 5 heavy challenge coins. James Suh, Shane Patton, Dan Healy, Michael Murphy, and Matt. To the right of those lay a challenge coin for Danny Diets, a team coin for the Night Stalkers, and a SEAL Team 10 coin.
Not a day goes by that those pieces do not give me strength.
A little more than two years ago, I placed a call trying to find out who actually made that knife for us. I had been so overwhelmed with my own life that I had forgotten to thank whomever it was that had given us such a powerful symbol of remembrance.
"Busse made them," a voice boomed from behind the speaker. So I made a call.
A year passed and my parents and I had been thinking about creating something to honor Matt. Something that would not only reflect his strengths, but that would also provide strength when needed. Matt was a pragmatist above most things. During a contemplative moment one day at my desk, it came to me: "I wonder if Busse would be willing to design and build a knife for Matt?". So I made a second call.
We decided to do two knives. A limited Edition one that would be proud and that would reflect the life of Matt and his Brothers lost, and one that would be subtle, yet tenaciously strong, and meant to be used hard.
We decided to name the blade the "AXE Hammer", a name that reflected both Matt's nickname, given to him by his Teammates, and the manner in which the men fought that fateful day, dropping the hammer on our enemy with vengeance.
We hope that everybody who visits us will take some strength away with them when they remember how hard our service men and women fight for us everyday. We will find ourselves in full if, during our lives, we can help support our best and bravest by giving them some of the tools they need to keep them safe. Enabling men and women like my Brother to "...risk their lives to save a friend", and, God willing, make it home to their families safely.