I grew up a few miles away from where Pat Tillman’s family lived, in New Almaden - a pretty leafy, liberal part of town removed from greater San Jose by a few winding roads, leading up to the few streets that New Almaden actually has. I lived about two or three miles away and used to ride bikes up around there. When Pat Tillman died there wasn’t a house in the area that DIDN’T hear about it. He was the local hero that got shot overseas, and his face was plastered in many a window.
For those of you unfamiliar with Pat Tillman’s story, I’ll give you a brief rundown. A naturally gifted athlete, he became a professional football player. Eight months after 911 he turned down a $3,600,000 contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the army. He was deployed to Afghanistan. Two years later, as support for the war was waning, he was shot by friendly fire.
The Pentagon decided to spin it that he was a national hero; a God-fearing jock who died valiently fighting the enemy for love and Liberty. The Pentagon also refused to tell the Tillman family exactly the circumstances in which he died, with the three-star general going on record more than 70 times saying that he had a “bad memory” and “didn’t recall the exact circumstances” under which Tillman was shot in the face by US bullets. That link is video of Kevin Tillman testifying before Congress about how transparent the shooting was. Pat waved his hands in the air for the U.S soldier to stop, some thirty feet away.
Pat was then transformed into a war hero.
However, this didn’t sit well with the family - who knew Pat better than anyone else. Pat was highly critical of the war in Iraq, believing that American simply had no place in Iraq. Had Pat not been violently murdered, he was to meet with one of his favorite writers - prominent U.S foreign policy critic and renowned author Noam Chomsky - upon his return to San Jose.
Pat’s memorial service had heavy religious overtones. Pat himself was wholly non-religious, which became glaringly apparent when Pat’s brother Rich got up on stage wearing a t-shirt and jeans holding a beer, and announced to the crowd “”Pat isn’t with God. He’s fucking dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s fucking dead.”
Here’s video of Pat’s mother testifying that Army officials remarking that Pat Tillman’s death - due to his lack of Christian faith - was nothing more than “worm dirt”.
It didn’t hurt the U.S propaganda machine that Pat looked like a cartoon of a hero - with the picture most published of him showing off cheekbones and army fatigues like something off of the back of a state quarter. But here’s video of Pat as he usually looked: long hair, stubble, and a stoner’s drawl. Quite different from the chiseled (and literal) poster-boy of the War in Afghanistan, and much different than the for-God-and-Country jock that many, many people think of him as.
There’s a documentary coming out about it soon, if you’re interested in learning more. There’s also his Wikipedia page, which provides extensive links out to more and more articles on the subject. Considering Pat and I were near neighbors, and I had no idea of the extensive government cover-up going on literally a mile and a half away from where I grew up, it’s fucking extraordinary it’s gone on this long.