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Anyone who listens to sports talk radio has heard a lot from Mary Tillman over the last couple of days. Mary is, of course, the mother of late Arizona Cardinals safety and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Her recent media tour has been an effort to publicize her new book; Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman. The book details Pat’s life, and Mary’s search for the truth about his friendly-fire death in Afghanistan in 2004.
In the book, and on the radio, Pat’s mom has been extremely critical of the military and the government. She’s even gone so far as to say that, at times, she thought Pat may have been intentionally murdered by the government. She’s also said that the soldiers who shot him were itching to fight, and reacted in some kind of blood-lust haze.
According to Mary, It’s a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of the government; including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and even President George W. Bush.
I certainly can’t blame her for being angry with the government and military. Almost as soon as Pat was killed, it was evident to everyone on the mission that Pat had been killed by friendly fire. However, when the story came out in the media, it was reported that Pat died a hero’s death, that he commanded his troops brilliantly and bravely, despite the mortal wound that he sustained early in the battle.
It wasn’t true.
And, it wasn’t until a month later that Pat’s family found out the truth... or what Mary Tillman suspects was some skewed version of it. She believes the actual facts were hidden when Pat died, due to the political ramifications it would have had at the time.
With Bush’s approval ratings in the toilet following the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Mary says the administration could not afford to own up to a botched operation which resulted in the death of the country’s most well-known soldier.
It makes sense... and it doesn’t.
I’m sure there were mix-ups in the story’s early going. I wouldn’t be surprised if the soldiers in Pat’s unit decided to tell their superiors that Pat died a heroic death in the firefight that took place when their convoy was ambushed, rather then tell them he was accidentally shot following that battle. The ensuing autopsy and investigation would have forced them to admit to the friendly-fire incident shortly thereafter.
It’s just a guess, of course, but the conspiracy theory that Mary has come up with seems a little more far-fetched. These men are Army Rangers, after all. They’re some of the best trained military specialists in the world, and demonizing them as blood-thirsty war-mongers just seems wrong. And, you can say what you want about America’s politicians, but accusing them of assassinating the country’s most beloved warrior is crazy.
Perhaps pointing fingers is her way of dealing with the unfathomable pain that those events have caused. Maybe writing this book played a big part in her healing. Maybe her outrage is more a product of those emotions than of actual fact.
Whatever the case, all things can be forgiven in the face of such tragedy. America lost a great patriot and football player, but Mary lost a son. And there’s always a chance she’s right about this whole mess. She definitely knows a lot more about the situation than I do.
The only people who really know are the men in Pat’s unit, and the one soldier from that unit I have heard speak about Pat’s death described the typical “fog of war” situation, with soldiers trying to protect themselves and each other.
I guess I’ll be picking up that book, though, if for no other reason than because half the pages are devoted to Pat’s life before he enlisted in the Army after 9/11.
R.I.P. Pat Tillman. Never forget his sacrifice, or those of all the troops.