Patrick Daniel Tillman Jr. was a recognizable professional American athlete who played football for the Arizona Cardinals. In may 2002, eight months after the devastating September 11th attacks, Tillman turned down a three-year $3.6 million contract to serve in the United States Army.
While competing various tours over the years in the Middle East, Tillman was redeployed in Afghanistan. On April 22, 2004, Pat Tilman was killed in the line of duty. “Tillman died courageously while charging uphill to save his platoon from an ambush.” This report came from the pentagon, but was later revealed that the United States Army had embellished the story. The statement was fabricated to hide the truth behind his death. The real story unfolded after evidence determined that Pat Tillman was killed from friendly fire. This evidence undermined the reports surrounding Tilman’s death and questioned what really happened that day.
It took the Army five weeks to release information regarding the real cause of death of Pat Tillman. When the Army released the news to the public, it shocked many including his family. However, they didn’t provide much detail to the public other than that he was killed by “friendly fire”. Afterwards, they provided his family with further evidence surrounding their son’s death. They gave his family a box of 3,000 detailed pages from the incidence, but was so confusing the family stated, “it was almost like trying to put together a crossword puzzle.”
The documents specified that at the location Pat was killed there was an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) attack on their unit from an ambush of twenty Taliban fighters. However, this information was misleading to everyone because not a single Ranger besides Tillman was wounded during this attack. Further evidence provided that none of the vehicles were damaged. As more evidence emerged it was clear that what really happened was far from what was told.
Before this occurrence, Tillman’s regiment was exploring the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. One of their vehicles broke down and their platoon was ordered to split up. Tilman and another army companion, Byran O’Neal, decided to stop near a local village near a narrow mountain path. They climbed up a hill in an attempt to recognize where they were. They were also accompanied with a friendly Afghan soldier to help guide them through the rugged terrain. They soon spotted one of their Humvees that appeared around the bend. Shots soon rang and eight bullet holes impacted the Afghan Solider. Pat and the O’Neal tried to hide behind a rock for cover. With a 50-caliber gun shooting in their direction Tillman was waving his arms shouting, “Cease fire, friendlies, I am Fucking Tillman, Damn it!” It was to late, his own team killed Pat in gunfire.
The latest documents given to family members depict a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tilman was killed. First the government claimed the Taliban killed him. Then they claimed he was killed as a result of “friendly fire”. With this in mind we need to ask what the real cause of his death was.
Evidence from the autopsy suggested that something other than friendly fire was the cause of his death. The medical evidence did not match up with the scenario as described. It was investigated that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared that the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from no more than ten yards away. These three bullet holes were shot in his forehead. This disturbing evidence shows that someone came up to him after he yelled out his name while still being wounded and shot him in the head to ensure he’d die. This verification leads to an important question, was Pat Tillman’s death a murder?
After the tragedy, Army investigators talked with soldiers and commanders. They wanted see whether Tillman was disliked or if anyone was jealous of his celebrity, or even if he was considered arrogant. They responded with “Tillman was respected, admired, and well-liked.” If this information is believed to be correct, then personal grievances couldn’t have been the motive.
One particular motive that seems to stand out is through political motives. Pat Tillman was a very outspoken about his views. He challenged President Bush and his administration about the invasion of Iraq. He recommended to others that they should vote for Kerry in 2004, and even interviewed with Noam Chomsky, a noted critic of the military and the Bush administration. He even had a notable diary that he had on him in which he might have written personal criticisms on the government and the military. To this day, that diary has never been returned to his family and is missing.
Pat was a not only a famous soldier, but was a recruitment-poster prospect. The fact that he could go public against the war and the administration couldn’t have been a pleasant thought for those who were aware of what was going on. President Bush at the time went so far to claim “executive privilege” in order to keep hidden further documents about Pat Tillman’s death. A tight grouping of three bullet holes makes friendly fire an impossible explanation for his death. This is why there is inconclusive evidence on how Pat Tillman really died. Was it a degree of politics that played a role in his murder and what information does that administration still have that they are covering up are still unknown to this day.
From the information I gathered I believe that Pat Tillman’s death was a murder. Whoever killed him had intentions on doing so, and in front of their own unit. I feel that the Army was well aware that he was a threat to their operations in the Middle East. They had two options, kill Pat Tillman, or face criticism that would tarnish the Army’s reputation when he came back home. Some soldiers share the same views as Pat, but what separates Pat from everyone else is his high-profile image. If Pat decided to address his opinions about the war when he came back it could have had a negative impact on the public’s perception of the war. There is too much evidence that proves that this case was premeditated. The autopsy, political motives, and government cover up’s show that this was more than just a “friendly fire.”
Subject: United States Army,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 January 2017
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