Raw. Visceral. I laughed. I mostly cried. All words and sentiments I would use to describe Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret, written and performed by Scott Mann. Scott is a retired Green Beret and leader of Operation Pineapple Express, an extraordinary effort to extract Afghan allies leading up to, and after the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. The play starts with the last moments of Master Sergeant Danny Patton’s life after hitting a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. For two more hours, the audience is transported through Danny Patton’s Special Forces career through gritty flashbacks – all narrated by angel-like operators tasked with helping Danny to let go of the burdens he carries. The angel operators’ mission is to find and relinquish the one burden keeping him from ascending to Valhalla, the heaven reserved for slain warriors.
A magic silly band was gifted to Danny by his son, Cayden, and it provides a symbolic thread central to the play. As I walked into Steppenwolf Theater, green silly band bracelets were handed out with the slogan ‘let go’ printed on the inside. Danny Patton must let go to ascend into Valhalla. While the play was written before the Afghanistan withdrawal, I imagine that ‘letting go’ is just as symbolic to Scott Mann and all the Afghan veterans in the audience. Letting go, however, does not mean inaction – just ask Scott Mann, who led an effort to evacuate more than a thousand Afghan allies.
Simply put, everyone needs to see this play. The portrayal of a Green Beret, his family, and the struggles they encounter during years of continuous deployments is incredible. My wife and I saw the play together – after more than 10 years of marriage, we had a conversation we had never had before on the ride home. Neither of us knew the full extent of the individual difficulties we experienced during my deployments. We would have gone without knowing if it hadn’t been for Last Out.
I saw Danny Patton fight a three-front war throughout the play. The first is obvious; the one downrange against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The second is at home. The tension and friction between Danny and his wife, Lynn, played by Heather Corrigan, causes an increasing uneasiness among the couple. The third front Danny is fighting is one we don’t talk about enough – the struggle he faces within himself. Danny is torn between two worlds; one with his team and the mission, and the other is home, being a husband, father, and functioning member of American society. With every deployment his home feels more foreign. This is a strange feeling that plagues most service members and veterans – and one that is very difficult to overcome.
Scott Mann wrote and performed Last Out for the first time in 2019. Since then, the United States concluded the war in Afghanistan on August 31st, 2021. More than 800,000 service members rotated in and out of Afghanistan during almost 20 years of war, 2,462 never came home, and 20,769 were wounded. Every living service member watched in August of 2021 as the country imploded and the United States conducted its hasty withdrawal. So many of America’s sons and daughters gave their youth, their bodies, their best efforts. Worse yet, an identity that so many service members held tightly was stripped away as the last C-17 departed Hamad Karzai International Airport.
The art of storytelling is as cathartic as it is entertaining. Scott Mann’s all veteran and military-connected cast delivers an eerily realistic glimpse into every service member’s three-front war. Last Out is exactly what this generation of veterans needs.
Please consider making plans to see Last Out. Click here to see if the play is coming to a city near you and get your tickets.
The Special Operations Association of America (SOAA) will continue to support the great initiatives of Scott Mann through Last Out. Our ability to translate the struggles of our service members, veterans and their families into lasting policy change is what makes SOAA unique and, more importantly, effective.