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The Life & Death of Pat Tillman

by Mary Tillman with Narda Zacchino

Pub Date: May 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59486-880-1
Publisher: Rodale

Eulogy, investigative report and all-out condemnation of the U.S. military—and those who control it.

When NFL player Pat Tillman gave up a multimillion-dollar contract to enlist in 2002, more than a few people—including his family—questioned his judgment. Inspired by 9/11, however, Tillman and his brother Kevin chose to become Army Rangers. Two years later, Pat was killed in Afghanistan. Hailed as a heroic patriot by the Bush administration during a period when good news was in short supply, Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his valor—accolades that seemed almost cruel when it came to light that Tillman was killed under mysterious circumstances by members of his own platoon. Though known primarily as a football player, Tillman’s athletic feats are little more than footnotes in his mother’s plaintive, cathartic reminiscence about Pat’s childhood and his closeness with brothers Richard and Kevin, relationships with friends and abundant intellectual curiosity. Her rage over his death—and the obfuscation that followed—is palpable, however, and is at least as strong as her grief. Alongside fond memories and recollections of Pat’s charismatic bluntness and self-sacrificing nature, Mary details her family’s exhaustive search for the truth with the help of allies ranging from Senator John McCain to retired General Wesley Clark to numerous investigative reporters. Standing in the way, however, are layers of military bureaucracy, blocking every attempt to get records, and, perhaps, an administration unwilling to admit that it was fully prepared to leverage Pat’s accidental death as a tool to increase support for the war. Mary’s tender tributes are achingly sincere, though they sometimes sit awkwardly alongside the in-depth details surrounding the search for the truth. But the chilling results yielded by the Tillman family’s unflagging efforts indicate that Pat’s death was, at best, a result of gross negligence and incompetence on the part of the U.S. Army and, at worst, a sinister coverup by high-ranking officials willing to lie to a soldier’s family and hoodwink the public in exchange for higher approval ratings.

Moving, powerful and overwhelmingly distressing.