Ryan Devereaux
September 28 2017
Antiwar.com

AS PART OF HIS ongoing crusade targeting black athletes, President Donald Trump shared a tweet Monday morning from one of his supporters. It included an image of Pat Tillman, the former NFL safety-turned-U.S. Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan in the spring of 2004. “NFLplayer PatTillman joined U.S. Army in 2002. He was killed in action 2004. He fought 4our country/freedom. #StandForOurAnthem #BoycottNFL,” wrote @jayMAGA45.

The intent of the president’s retweet was clear: Trump was co-signing a suggestion that Tillman was a true patriot, unlike those who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem, and that those protests dishonor his legacy.

Just seven days after Pat Tillman’s death, a top general warned there were strong indications that it was friendly fire and President Bush might embarrass himself if he said the NFL star-turned-soldier died in an ambush, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions, FILE) Cpl. Pat Tillman in a 2003 photo. Photo: Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions/APIt’s easy to understand why Tillman would make an attractive figure to Trump and his base. His Army photo reflects an image of a certain type of all-American hero: chiseled jaw, broad shoulders, white skin. But simply looking at Tillman’s photo and the superficial facts of his tale is to miss everything important about his life, his death, and what came after. Tillman’s is indeed an all-American story, it’s just not the kind that Trump and his supporters want it to be.

Few episodes of the post-9/11 era have called down more disgrace upon the military than its handling of Tillman’s death and its treatment of his family in their search for answers. The most comprehensive documentation of those events can be found in three accounts: two books, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman,” written by Tillman’s mother, Mary, and “Where Men Win Glory,” by Jon Krakauer; as well as a 2006 story by Gary Smith for Sports Illustrated. Together, they offer an invaluable corrective to the simplistic depictions of Tillman, revealing a complex person and charting the ways in which officials at the highest levels of U.S. government sought to capitalize off his life and death.

Tillman was 25 years old when he joined the Army, placing him on the older side of military enlistees but on the decidedly younger side of life. His decision was born out of the conclusion that his comfortable existence in the U.S. made little sense in the months after 9/11; he wanted meaning, he wanted to do something that mattered, and he wanted to continue a lifelong project of placing himself in challenging situations. Along with his brother Kevin, Tillman chose to enlist. It was the same decision thousands of other young people of his generation made in the aftermath of 9/11. Both of the Tillman boys were, by all accounts, independent-minded free thinkers who enjoyed good books and good debates — chest-pounding jocks they were not. And, like many others who chose to come to the nation’s defense following 9/11, their worldview would evolve as they saw George W. Bush’s Global War on Terrorism up close.

Read more