Pat Tillman lived a glorious life. His daily drive and demeanor, exceptional to be sure, put him a notch above the rest of us. His drive made him successful. Through high school he was a football sensation, with personal stats that would have been impressive as a team’s. His demeanor earned him respect. He attended college on a football scholarship and earned a 3.84 GPA to avoid the ‘jock’ stereotype. Eventually becoming a star NFL defensive back, it was his sense of duty that would lead him from the goal lines of the football field to the front lines of the battle field. He would die on duty, but his death would not be his undoing. The flagitious stream of lies fed by the U.S. Government following his death, revealed by John Krakauer in Where Men Win Glory, belittled the man who had so valiantly walked away from the American Dream in order to die for it. The way our government dealt with his controversial death viciously struck against everything Pat stood for, and I walked away with a sour taste in my mouth about our “greatest country on earth.”
Desire. Pat was a man who wanted. Wanted to live on the edge, craved a challenge, needed to be busy. When told in High School that he was too small to play baseball, he chose not to join the chess team, but lift weights and play football instead. Headstrong and filled with hubris, he would decide his course and stick with it. While meeting with the head coach of ASU’s football team he announced to his superior, “Coach, you can play me or not play me, but I’m only going to be here four years. And then I’ve got things to do with my life (Page 71-72).” Running his own show, he refused to let the world get in his way.
Pat lived with purpose, but he also lived for others. A homebody at heart, leaving his Californian stomping grounds for ASU was petrifying. He “missed Marie and his family so acutely... that he sometimes found himself reduced to tears (Page 71).” Pat was charismatic on and off the field, chumming up to any and all. In college he befriended a Hungarian immigrant who was tutored alongside him. To this day she says she still, “…couldn’t believe he was talking to me, someone who had a thick Hungarian accent. I was almost thinking, ‘What is wrong with this guy?’ (Page 75).” The events of 9/11 eventually drove Pat to enlist in the Army, deserting his career, wife, and home he loved. He would be in for a rude surprise.
Fratricide swooped in and stole Pat’s life on his last deployment before his three year term was up. The exposition of the KIA, clearly drawn out by Krakauer, was a crooked, rocky valley with an American unit rolling through under enemy fire. Pat was in the rocks farther up, and despite waving and yelling that he was a friendly, he was blown away. Keeping with the realism he had...