WASHINGTON – Former pro football player Pat Tillman’s family is lashing out against the Army, saying the military’s investigations into Tillman’s friendly fire death in Afghanistan last year were a sham and that Army efforts to cover up the truth have made it harder for the family to deal with its loss.
More than a year after their son was shot several times by fellow Army Rangers on a hillside near the Pakistan border, Tillman’s mother and father said in interviews they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son had died to foster a patriotic response across the country.
They say the Army’s “lies” made them suspicious and they are certain they never will get the full story.
“Pat had high ideals about the country; that’s why he did what he did,” Mary Tillman said. “The military let him down. The administration let him down. …
“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,” she said.
Tillman, a popular player for the Arizona Cardinals, gave up stardom in the National Football League after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to join the Army Rangers with his brother. After a tour in Iraq, their unit was sent to Afghanistan last year.
Shortly after arriving, Tillman was killed by gunfire from his own men, mistaken for the enemy as he was getting into position to defend them.
Immediately, the Army kept the soldiers on the ground quiet and told Tillman’s family and the public that he had been killed by enemy fire while storming a hill, barking orders to his fellow Rangers.
After a memorial service at which Tillman received the Silver Star, the Army told Tillman’s family what really had happened.
An investigation this month found that soldiers in Afghanistan knew almost immediately they had killed Tillman in what they believed was a firefight with enemies on a canyon road. The investigation also revealed that soldiers later burned Tillman’s uniform and body armor.