“If it had happened to someone else, Pat would be busting through walls to find the truth,” said Mary Tillman, mother of Pat Tillman–NFL player, Army ranger and casualty of war.
Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan under shadowy circumstances that still pose more questions than answers. The media initially reported that Pat was killed by the Taliban. Weeks later it was revealed that it was a case of “friendly fire.” Now, after four years, six investigations and two Congressional hearings, questions still linger about how Pat died, why it was covered up and who, in fact, knew.
Mary Tillman and her very private family are determined to go through whatever walls are in front of them, in a lonely quest for the truth. They want to expose the cover-up surrounding Pat’s death. They also want to expose a criminal administration, an illegal war in Iraq and the way organizations like the NFL have been quick to exploit Pat’s memory while doing nothing to help search for the truth.
Speaking with Tillman about her new book, Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman, I found not a just a grieving parent, but a fierce advocate, a fighter with the kind of steady strength that is simply humbling.
What are some of the reasons that you wrote the book?
I wanted the public to understand what the military and government had done in trying to use Pat as a propaganda tool for the purposes of basically deflecting attention away from the serious things that were happening in the month of April 2004–such as Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, the President’s approval ratings and the rising casualties; and also to use him as a martyr to rally support and patriotic feeling for the war in Iraq.
How do you explain to yourself the extraordinary lengths that the Pentagon went to in order to cover up the circumstances of Pat’s death?
I think that they thought his death would be relatively easy to cover up, once they destroyed the evidence. They destroyed his uniform, and his equipment. And I think they thought that was sufficient, and they didn’t realize that Pat’s body was also evidence, in itself, that he had been killed by US rounds… He also had a military journal, as they all do, and Kevin requested that. (Kevin’s his brother, they were in the same platoon.) He requested to have it back, and we were just told that they couldn’t find it. So for two years we were just told that it was missing. And then after the belated criminal investigation was completed, we had a briefing and we were told that in fact the journal had been burned. Kevin, of course, asked why was it burned and they said that, “Well, it had tactical information in it” that was secretive or clandestine. I’ve talked to so many military people of many ranks, retired and everything else, and they all say that’s absurd. If that were the case then they would confiscate the journals of every soldier after every mission.