Patrick Daniel Tillman (November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004) was an American football player who left his professional sports career and enlisted in the United States Army in May 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. He joined the United States Army Rangers and served multiple tours in combat before he was killed by friendly fire in the mountains of Afghanistan. Details about the circumstances surrounding his death have been the subject of controversy and military investigations. The Defense Department didn't disclose that Tillman died by friendly fire for more than a month. In the meantime, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valor and promoted from specialist to corporal. A Navy officer said at a televised memorial service that Tillman died heroically, a victim of the ambush.*
Jon Krakauer's new book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman reveals how the Bush administration made one of Pat Tillman's fears come true when it turned the friendly fire death into a propaganda victory. "One night he said that he was afraid that if something happened to him, they would parade him through the streets," said his friend Spc. Jade Lane. In the book Krakauer describes Tillman as an atheist.
God's not going to help you
From: At Last A Comic Book Atheist Hero Here I return to Pat Tillman. When Tillman went to war, he knew he was alone and finite. When he contemplated the possibility of getting killed, he did not see angels and fluffy clouds beyond that moment, but utter darkness. He required no guarantees of ultimate survival before he jumped in. In fact, according to credible reports, the very last words he spoke were to a nearby soldier who was lying on the ground crying out to God for help. "Would you shut your (expletive) mouth?" yelled Tillman. "God's not going to help you. You need to do something for yourself, you sniveling..."
From: Was Pat Tillman murdered? As bullets flew above their heads, the young soldier at Pat Tillman's side started praying. "I thought I was praying to myself, but I guess he heard me," Sgt. Bryan O'Neal recalled in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press. "He said something like, 'Hey, O'Neal, why are you praying? God can't help us now."'
From: True hero athlete Day's theme: Challenge yourself Tillman's youngest brother, Rich, wore a rumpled white T-shirt, no jacket, no tie, no collar, and immediately swore into the microphone. He hadn't written anything, he said, and with the starkest honesty, he asked mourners to hold their spiritual bromides.
"Pat isn't with God, he said. "He's f -- ing dead. He wasn't religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he's f -- ing dead.
From: ESPN Story behind his death Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, an officer with responsibilities for Tillman's unit: Kauzlarich said he'd learned Kevin Tillman, Pat's brother and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died, objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother's body was returned to the United States.
From Salon: The "troops" are nothing but cheap and empty props to them. Before it was revealed that Pat Tillman was both an atheist and against the war in Iraq, he was paraded around after his death as though he, standing alone, was the Symbol and Justification for the warmongering Bush movement. Ann Coulter said that "Tillman was an American original: virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be." Sean Hannity constantly invoked his name with antiwar guests.
Yet once it was revealed what Tillman's actual political views were, they both simply declared that they "do not believe" it. What mattered to them was not who he really was -- they could not care less about that -- but his use to them in service of their twisted political propaganda.
From [NY Times When Heroism Means Finding Truth]: But in other ways, Tillman didn’t fit the image. Thoughtful and private, he never made a public statement about his decision to enlist and asked that his privacy on the matter be respected. An avowed atheist, he studied the writings of Noam Chomsky and opposed the war in Iraq after serving a tour of duty there. Yet when the government and the N.F.L. secretly arranged for him to return to football without having to fulfill his commitment, he refused the deal, believing it was his duty to serve the three years for which he had signed up. His next stop was Afghanistan.
From From NPR One Family's Quest For The Truth: The Tillman Story is ferocious filmmaking, but it wouldn't have half the force it does if the director didn't also get at the complicated man Pat Tillman was — the football star who volunteered to serve in a war he later doubted the logic for; the avowed atheist who read the Book of Mormon. As you get a sense of Tillman the man, you better understand his family's fury at the flag-waving being done in his name.
Controversy after Tillman's Death
After reports of Tillman's anti-war views became public, Ted Rall who had previously written a comic calling Tillman a "fool" and "idiot," said that he was wrong to have assumed Tillman to be a "right wing poster child" when Tillman regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal.
Then-Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, Regimental Executive Officer at Forward Operating Base Salerno on Khowst, Afghanistan, under which Tillman was serving at the time of his death, and who led the second investigation into Tillman's death, made controversial statements about the Tillman family’s search for the truth based on Tillman's atheism. In comments to ESPN, Kauzlarich said: "These people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs" and "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing and now he is no more… I do not know how an atheist thinks, I can only imagine that would be pretty tough."
Kauzlarich conducted the second investigation into Tillman's death which lasted a week, from May 8 to May 15, 2004. Brigadier General Rodney Johnson, the Commanding General of the United States Army Criminal Investigations Command, testified before Congress that he found these statements "totally unacceptable." Acting Department of Defense Inspector General Thomas Gimble also testified that he was "shocked" that Lt. Col. Kauzlarich would make these statements. According to AP analysis, Kauzlarich may be one of three lower level officers expected to be punished whose names have not yet been released by the military. Tillman's mother continues to reject the Pentagon's characterization of the officers' offenses as "errors" in reporting Tillman's death, because several officers have said they made conscious decisions not to tell the Tillman family that friendly fire was suspected. From Wikipedia
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