Pat Tillman is in the news again because a criminal probe has been opened up to investigate his death.
Pat Tillman is the former Arizona Cardinals football player who left millions of dollars on the table to enlist in the Army and become a Ranger after 9/11. He was deployed to Afghanistan and was killed there. He famously said:
“I play football. It just seems so unimportant compared to everything that has taken place,” he told NFL Films after the Sept. 11 attacks. His grandfather had been at Pearl Harbor. “A lot of my family has gone and fought wars, and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”
He had values (and not your usual “American” conservative values, as his brother said at his funeral: “Pat isn’t with God, he’s f — ing dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s f — ing dead.”) and sought to exemplify them:
Tillman talked about everything, with everyone. According to the speakers, he had read the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and he underlined passages constantly. Garwood recalled how he’d mail articles to friends, highlighting certain parts and writing in the margins: “Let’s discuss.” A quotation from Emerson, found underlined in Tillman’s readings, adorned the program.
It concluded with this: “But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
The initial reports released to the media said the death was as a result of enemy fire. This continued until around when Tillman was buried, when his parents (after the funeral) were informed that he died as a result of friendly fire.
So what happened? In my mind, Pat Tillman, a true example of a hero, got fucked over by the military. As a result, what he believed in so much ended up taking his life and dishonoring his memory.
The soldiers present at the accident said immediately that they knew it was friendly fire. They reported this to their superiors but somehow the top Army officials claimed that they did not receive those details and reported to the best of their knowledge that he had died as a result of enemy fire.
So despite being told from the beginning what happened, somehow a mid-level staffer communicated the wrong information to the higher-ups? Riiiight. How about this? The Army finds out its new poster boy has died and now it needs to do damage control. It can correct the facts later but a friendly fire death would be horrible PR.
And the higher-ups in the Army knew it was friendly fire before the funeral. Why didn’t they tell the parents? I had an argument with a friend of mine about this — he says he would not want to know the truth because it would not help. I say I would always want to know the truth about how my son died.
So now they’re opening a criminal probe. Is it to find out why Tillman’s family was not told the truth? No, it’s to skewer one of the Rangers present at the accident for negligent homicide! Can you fucking believe it? I don’t think there’s a soldier around who would think badly of another soldier for what happened there. Friendly fire happens easily. We would have understood if we were told the truth.
I really fucking hope I don’t go out like that.
The story disgusts me. Tillman was a real American hero, one who has principles and who encourages open, difficult debate. He inspired and he led. And like any real hero, he was ignominiously killed and dishonored by cowards in staff and in the media.