Eight months after 9/11, Pat Tillman, a starting Safety with the Arizona Cardinals, gave up his life as a professional football star to join the US Army Rangers. He served several tours in combat before he died in the mountains of Afghanistan. The Army first reported that Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, and he was awarded a Silver Star amidst a frenzy of media attention. But the actual cause of Tillman’s death was later revealed to be from friendly fire, and his family slowly uncovered that the Donald Rumsfeld led military had manipulated his tragic death as a propaganda tool.
The story of Pat Tillman is a modern American tale. By digging in you will learn that not only is such a cover-up still very possible in today’s age of intense media scrutiny, but even when discovered, it went almost completely unpunished. And Tillman himself is a fascinating figure. He was an atheist who voraciously read religious texts. He was a patriot who felt the moral obligation to defend his country, but also admired Noam Chomsky. He was fearless athlete who valued pushing his limits and keeping his word more than the millions of professional Football. Pat Tillman, after seeing how the realities of Army life didn’t live up to his ideals, had a chance to get an honorable discharge and continue his Football career. But he chose to carry out his contract, even though he no longer believed in the cause.
After reading the excellent book by the always engaging Jon Krakauer, and then watching the thorough documentary (trailer below), I was left a little stunned. This is a story that says a lot about a man. And more than you may want to know about modern war.