Aug. 29, 2012
Pat Tillman was an incredible recruiting asset for the military in the wake of the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001. The popular Californian was an academic and athletic standout in high school and at Arizona State University. Motivated by intense patriotism, Tillman gave up a lucrative professional football career and joined the Army Rangers.
by Don Fulsom
A Sports Illustrated All-Pro safety for the Arizona Cardinals in 2000, Tillman enlisted in the elite military squadron at the end of the 2001 season. Just wed to his high school sweetheart, he turned down a three-year $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to help avenge the surprise air assaults on his homeland.
On April 22, 2004, at age 27, Cpl. Tillman was killed in action in a canyon in eastern Afghanistan. Apparently, his death was a not-uncommon “fog of war” tragedy caused by “friendly fire.” The entire rear of Tillman’s movie-star handsome head was blown out by a burst of three tightly placed bullets to his forehead from an M-16-type rifle. The fatal shots were fired from a scant 10 yards away.
Initially, however, Pentagon officials refused to disclose that U.S. bullets had killed the Army’s No. 1 “poster boy.” The story the Army put out claimed Tillman was fatally wounded during an ambush by as many as one-dozen Taliban insurgents.
They knew better. Documents obtained by The Washington Post in 2005 say the first Army investigator on the scene determined “within days” that his fellow Rangers killed Tillman in an act of “gross negligence.” The documents also show that top Army officials—including the theater commander, General John Abizaid—were almost immediately informed that Tillman’s death was fratricide.