An Army Ranger–turned–conscientious objector pays tribute to a fallen comrade with a walk across America.
Pat Tillman was hailed as a hero when he walked away from NFL millions to enlist in the war against terrorism. Yet he became even more of a hero to Fanning for retaining his critical faculties and refusing to follow blindly the conditioning of military authorities. “Pat Tillman was the first person to suggest to me that it was possible to stand up to the US military,” writes the author. “[T]he fact remains that I am alive today, or at least less damaged, because of Pat Tillman.” The two weren’t exactly foxhole buddies, and Fanning admits that they didn’t know each other well. Yet by the time Tillman was killed, the author was on his way out of the military as a commanding officer, shunned by the rest of the Army Rangers who had considered him one of them. Since the cause of death was revealed as “friendly fire,” followed by a coverup, Tillman became a different sort of hero to America, and Fanning vowed to walk across the country to raise funds, and consciousness, for the benefit of Tillman’s foundation. In the aftermath, he has written this curious book about his mission—partly an evocation of “the bloody birth of the nation I now walked through” and its often troubled history, part memoir of the author’s transformation from conservative Christian soldier to radical atheist and pacifist, part indictment of a foreign policy in which “Iraq felt like a bait-and-switch—and a betrayal.” But mostly it’s about the people he met in the small towns he visited and the encouragement they gave him. “The walk wasn’t changing the world like I hoped, but I was changing,” he writes.
Fanning’s dedication to the cause is admirable, but readers are left wondering how the author thought he would change the world by walking across the country.