The family of former NFL player Pat Tillman is criticizing the U.S. Army for what they say is a cover-up of his death by friendly fire last year, and reportedly take issue with the military and the government’s efforts to turn their son’s loss of life into political strategy.
“Pat had high ideals about the country; that’s why he did what he did,” Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, tells The Washington Post in her first lengthy interview since he died after being repeatedly shot by his Army Rangers near the Pakistani border.
Saying that official investigations into his death are a sham that has made it more difficult for the family to deal with their loss, Mary Tillman added: “The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting.”
Tillman left his job on the Arizona Cardinals after 9/11 to join the Army Rangers with his brother. Following a tour in Iraq, in spring 2004 they were sent to Afghanistan to help hunt for Osama bin Laden. Soon after his arrival, Tillman was mistaken for the enemy and killed by his own men, The Post reports.
But the Army, the paper says, quoting the family, had the soldiers keep quiet and informed both the Tillmans and the American public that it was enemy fire that brought down Tillman, who died a hero shouting orders to defend his men.
It was not until after a public memorial service, at which Tillman received a posthumous Silver Star, that the Army told the truth — that Tillman had been killed by his own men.
According The Post, a series of military investigations have offered conflicting reports of Tillman’s death. The most recent details the confusion that surrounded his mission and makes clear that the family had been deprived of the details of his death.
Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks tells The Post that the Army “reaffirms its heartfelt sorrow to the Tillman family and all families who have lost loved ones during this war. … In the case of the death of Corporal Patrick Tillman, the Army made mistakes in reporting the circumstances of his death to the family. For these, we apologize. We cannot undo those early mistakes.”
But an angry Patrick Tillman Sr., the father of the slain soldier, says: “After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.”
Adds Mary Tillman: “If this is what happens when someone high profile dies, I can only imagine what happens with everyone else.”