Pat Tillman was a reluctant soldier who disagreed with the war policies of the Bush administration and wasn’t afraid to say so, according to a new book by Jon Krakauer, who reexamines the life and tragic death of the former Arizona Cardinals safety. Why then did Tillman give up millions in a successful NFL career to join the army, and then later refuse to be discharged when he had an opportunity to do so?
Tillman, who was tragically killed in an ambush in an Afghanistan village in 2004, was a complicated individual who put honor and country above everything, says Krakauer in his book, “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman.” It’s a story of the man who was inspired to to serve in the military after the events of 9-11, his disillusionment with the mission afterward, and the army coverup surrounding his death.
Although Tillman was killed by American gunfire in a friendly fire incident, the army attempted to paint a picture of a man who fell gloriously at the hands of enemy insurgents, and use it as a recruiting tool. The real tragedy of the Tillman case was the way his memory was exploited, says Krakauer. And that Pat Tillman did not have to die:
Krakauer uncovers government documents that expose how the cover-up of the circumstances around Tillman’s death was allowed to happen. He follows the ensuing investigations into Tillman’s death that were spearheaded by his mother, Dannie. The cover-up, which the military continues to deny as a cover-up, culminated with a Congressional hearing that is also detailed in the book.
But it’s Krakauer’s in-depth conversations with Tillman’s wife and high school sweetheart, Marie, that tell the most compelling story of how and why he made the decision to join the Army in the first place. The letters Tillman writes to his wife from Iraq, in which he expresses the regret he feels for enlisting and the hopes he has for their future, are simply heartbreaking.
Although Tillman was by all accounts miserable in the army and didn’t agree with the mission, he reportedly turned down a chance to get out after two years and join the Seattle Seahawks. Tillman elected to serve out his term in the military, roughly another full year, telling his agent that he’d return to the league after that. He’d turned down a three-year, $3.6 million offer from the Cardinals when he originally enlisted.
The Seahawks offer was revealed in an interview Krakauer did with THE NEW YORK TIMES, and verified by SI’s Peter King.