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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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