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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pat Tillman was the perfect American post-9/11 story. He gave up his career as a NFL star to fight for his country after the Twin Towers fell. But his tragic death by friendly fire and the cover-up that followed is the true story of the Bush/Cheney administration’s effort to mislead America into glamorizing war.

Critic Mick LaSalle describes how Tillman’s brother Richard ached over the fantasies that had been conveniently created around Pat:

At Tillman’s memorial service, his youngest brother, Richard, climbed up to the podium, beer in hand, and said the following: “Thanks for coming. Pat’s a f- champion and always will be. … He’s not with God. He’s f- dead. He’s not religious. Thanks for your thoughts, but he’s f- dead.”

The beauty and the courage of this statement may be lost outside its context, so here’s some background. At this same service, a succession of political and military officials had already done everything they could to appropriate Tillman’s death for political purposes. They had spoken in flowery terms, denied the reality of the tragedy and tried to render the deceased, a complicated and intelligent man, into some kind of Hallmark jingle. In the process, they had built a mountain of malarkey and balderdash — Richard Tillman could supply an even better word — that somebody had to cut through. He did.

Tillman was a unconventional hero and we honor him on this Memorial Day by sharing his true story, which only was unearthed largely thanks to the unflinching efforts of his mother Dannie.

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  • Every fallen and/or wounded serviceman deserves our gratitude and respect. The same goes for the intelligence officers who have died or been captured and tortured while performing their dangerous missions with very little attention from everyone. And the same goes for all our diplomats who readily accept their assignment in dangerous places because they understand the importance of their duties and accept them readily.
    The problem is not those who serve in a variety of capacities, but the politicians who put them in harms way, who use them as pawns to achieve their political and financial goals, and who try to benefit from their sacrifices by glamorizing war and ridiculing dialogue as a means to settle disputes.
    Last but not least, are the ignorant who are constantly criticizing our government, ignoring that those they criticize are putting their lives on the line to ensure we can spend our time voicing our opinions without fear of retribution.

    • Just think of what some of our greatest professional athletes, particularly in the NFL,have done for themselves and their teams. Pat Tillman did it for us. Thanks forever, Pat!

      • RobertCHastings

        This penchant that professional athletes have was more evident in WWII than before or since. Many professionals gave up their glamorous lives for the sake of country. Ted Williams and many others interrupted lucrative and record-producing seasons on the ball fields to help with the war effort in whatever ways were needed. Entertainers from stage, screen and music signed up for combat duty, bond tours, USO tours in combat zones, some ultimately dying for their involvement in an effort to help the US and its allies to success. Clark Gable flew combat missions as a gunner on bombers. Glen Miller ultimately died flying to USO tours.
        So many others made large sacrifices so that we might succeed, as have countless volunteer soldiers done today. While Tillman was not the first (nor the last) to be killed by friendly fire, his sacrifice was no less. However, the effort itself is diminished when it becomes a tool for politicians to advance their own purposes.
        One of the largest issues facing America today is what will be done with those who return from combat, simply because, while the fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan were relatively few, the injured are returning in droves, needing adequate medical and psychological care, housing, jobs, and all those things any man should expect when he returns from serving his country in a hostile place. One of the most uplifting TV series I have seen in recent years was “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, especially those episodes in which communities united behind the team’s effort to build a home for a returning veteran. However, it is my opinion that this was something the government should have already been pursuing, providing everything necessary for those veterans to continue their lives where they left off. IF it is the desire of our government to engage in armed conflicts around the globe in which our soldiers are in constant risk of death, it should be the responsibility of the government to make sure everything – EVERYTHING – is okay when they return. Otherwise, we must cease.

  • RobertCHastings

    There is nothing glamorous about war. The first war that Americans were exposed to graphically was the Civil War, whose images first appeared by the efforts of the first wave of journalistic photographers. Every war since then has had its own iconic pictures. Vietnam I remember from two especially graphic shots – one of a young girl running naked down a street, her clothing having been burned from her body, the other of a young man having his brains blown out by a Viet Cong commander. Neither of these photos impressed me with the glory of war. When one learns that the story of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi was staged, the story above comes into sharp focus, as does the image of George W. Bush on an aircraft carrier backed by a banner shouting “Mission Accomplished”. Every other war since the Civil War has had its own pictures, immortalized in the minds of those who viewed the pictures, and those who lived the pictures. The lies surrounding Tillman’s death and the firestorm around the deception should in no wise deter from his legacy. Like ALL of those who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of family and country, we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their faith in their countryand for their sacrifice.