Friday, October 15, 2010

It's All Politics?

Normally I don't like to talk about topics that are considered "controversial" and politics is pretty much a subject avoided like the plague outside of a small group of people in my life. It typically stirs the pot and can turn a fun night with family or friends into an argument or hurt feelings. This particular story, however, is one that I'm glad was told and I can't help but want to talk about. So on a more serious note, here we go...

Tonight Jim and I went to Tempe and had a date night. He had heard that the documentary "The Tillman Story" was playing on mill and I'm so glad that he suggested it because I think it is one of the best films I've EVER seen. It's a documentary which basically shows the testimonies of the family and friends of Pat Tillman; the people closest to him. 

Let's Review:

Pat Tillman, husband, son, brother, played for Arizona State University as a linebacker, and the Arizona Cardinals as the safety position, turned down a multi-million dollar contract to enlist with the United States Army Rangers and support his country after the September 11th attacks and was killed as a result of friendly fire.

That's one sentence....That's pretty much the story as most Americans know it. 


Pat Tillman never published a reason, or gave an official statement about why he enlisted with the Army Rangers. Any explanation given was based off of clips and bits and pieces of interviews rearranged by the media. Pat was a private person and wanted to keep his decision between him and his family to avoid any unnecessary publicity, because he felt that he should be seen as just another soldier doing his duty. He actually joined 6 months after September 11th, not directly after as depicted by the media.

Pat signed documents specifically stating his wishes if he should be killed in action, that he not have a military funeral. It seemed like from the second news was released of his death, all that anyone wanted to do was be involved with his funeral; especially the U.S. military. Right away officials were sent to the Tillman home to have his wife Marie sign off on having his funeral at Arlington Cemetery. 

Pat's family was told that he was killed by enemy fire, and it wasn't until weeks later that news surfaced about the friendly fire. Even after some of the truth was exposed, great lengths were taken to keep the whole truth a secret. It was depicted that he was killed in the fog of war and a lot of confusion took place during an enemy ambush. Through hours and thousands of pages of research done by Mary "Dannie" Tillman, Pat's mom, the truth was exposed that his own comrades were the ones responsible for his death. Testimonies from other troops with Pat at the time suggest that Pat made his identity clear to his fellow troops, but it is the belief that the men responsible were simply excited to be involved in open fire.  

The United States military gave orders to the U.S. troops who witnessed Pat Tillman's death on April 22, 2004 to not speak of the events of his death to Pat's brother Kevin. Kevin enlisted with Pat and was obligated to 3 years of service along with Pat. The goal was to keep the truth of his death a secret. Soldiers who spoke of events were demoted shortly after.

A week after the funeral, a P4 memo written by Major General Stanley McChrystal was sent to White House officials and President George W. Bush's speech writers stating the truth of the friendly fire and that it may cause "public embarrassment" to the Bush administration. Basically, Pat Tillman's death was made to look heroic. He was given a silver star, the military's third highest honor, to allow Americans to embrace Pat as a national hero and take the spotlight off of the truth. Pat became the poster boy for the U.S. army and instead of being recognized for his true character and values, the important send home message was of his love for his country and his brave acts during the war.

Pat's father stated in an interview that he thought that Pat's silver star should be taken away, because while he felt that his son was an honorable man, he did not earn the award. 

Pat's youngest brother Richard spoke at his funeral saying thank you for all of the nice thoughts but that Pat was not religious and that he was (F******) dead, in the ground. (After everyone said that Pat was in a better place now in their speeches).

Pat's mom made a statement at a congressional hearing regarding the case, saying that the United States was dishonoring all of the current troops and men who served in the past by covering up the truth about Pat's death.

Kevin, Pat's brother who enlisted with him, kept his word and honored his commitment and finished his service to the United States by finishing out his 3-year tour even after he had the option of honorable discharge; similar to Pat who had the option of honorable discharge to continue playing in the NFL halfway through is tour and passed. 

My Take-home

This scandal went beyond just a close-knit family and a football player, blame went up into the ranks, beyond the supervising officer and up into the presidency to cover it up. It blows my mind that our government can be so worried about its image that it would make decisions to blatantly lie to the world and family of this person lost at war, instead of telling the truth which could be just as powerful. 

Evidence after this event was destroyed. Pat's personal journal, his clothes and helmet and any evidence of the event were destroyed by the U.S. military. Men were given orders to lie and betray their country in efforts to make the United States and ultimately, the President, look good-not just good, heroic and an honor to be associated with. Footage from the documentary shows the highest decorated U.S. Generals searching for words to defend themselves, and looking like fools in the process.

Something that all of the friends and family seemed to revert back to was that Pat was honest and had integrity. He wasn't perfect and wasn't always right, but he would be the first one to point out when he was wrong. His image, character and sacrifice was lost in the media's translation and attempts to grip and pull and tear him in different directions to create a hero for the country to admire, instead of letting us admire the quiet hero that he really was.

If we can't trust the leaders of our country, who can we trust? If we can not put our faith in them, who are we putting our faith in? We can only be accountable for ourselves and our actions, it's the only thing we have control over.

I don't remember the last time I literally cried in a movie; I was just about sobbing. Pat reminded me of my husband-a faithful husband, a truthful, honest, hard-working individual who cared for his family and followed the sense of "right" in his life. He didn't say he was something he wasn't, but was honest about his openness to learn about other people's cultures and beliefs, unlike the politicians who lied to his family, but then stood up and spoke about God and honor. I already believed in total truth all of the time. Lies and misleading is unacceptable in my mind and will ruin any relationship, whether it be between a husband and wife, or a President and a country. This account of Pat's life and death only further inspire me to work on my character and be an honest, fair person for the friends, family and even coworkers in my life.

How are you living your life?

The film is no longer playing in theaters in Arizona, and I'm not sure when it's supposed to come out on video, but here is a clip from "Hardball with Chris Matthews" which I think is a straight forward example of the tone of the film, with an interview from Pat's mom.

Thank you for taking the time to read this long post. I strongly encourage you to follow up with this film and try to see it when it becomes available again. I encourage you to comment and share your thoughts on this and how just watching this clip made you feel.


The following is the link to The Pat Tillman Foundation.

Blogger Lori said...  

Wow. Kinda makes me ill... I agree - hard to trust a government that would cover this up...

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