“I am Pat f***ing Tillman! Why are you shooting at me?”
I remember when Pat Tillman died. The story was on every major network. I do not remember stories about him joining the Army, but I am not a football fan so that may have not been news to me. I also remember when it was reported that he was killed by fratricide (friendly fire) after the government decided to try and make him a hero. I have seen The Tillman Story twice, and the second time did not lessen the effect that the movie had on me.
Pat Tillman refused to speak publicly about his decision to join the Army and the Army Rangers alongside his brother, Kevin. It was a personal decision, and he wanted to be treated like all of the other soldiers in the Army. After training, he spent time in Iraq and was on the ground during the “rescue” of Jessica Lynch. It was in Iraq that he became disillusioned with war in Iraq and thought it was “f***ing illegal.” For his second tour, he was sent to Afghanistan, and his life ended in an attack on April 22, 2004.
Make no mistake, this film details the cover-up that the government started after Pat Tillman and the result it had on his family and friends. It also tells about who Pat Tillman really was. How he grew up and how he lived outside of the Army and the NFL is also told. It humanizes him for the people who called him a “hero.” He was very much a private man. He knew if he died that he might be used as propaganda, so he smuggled a copy of his Army last wishes detailing that he did not want a military funeral to his wife, Marie. The Army pressured her into a military funeral, but knowing his last wishes, she did not give in.
If anyone is a hero in this film, it would have to be Dannie Tillman, Pat’s mom. She laboriously went through 3000 pages of documents given to her by the Army about Pat’s death. The majority of the documents had significant amounts redacted (or blacked out). With the help of retired Army soldier and blogger, Stan Goff, Dannie was able to piece together some of the details and names associated with what happened on April 22, 2004. She started to understand that a cover-up had started almost immediately after Pat died. How many other families has this happened to? Their sons or daughters may not have been famous or their families were not as persistent for answers, but the film brought that question to mind. Along with interviews with Pat Tillman’s fellow soldiers, the film gives a pretty detailed account as to what happened that day.
I for one had more respect and admiration for Pat Tillman after seeing the film that tells not only about his death, but his life as well. If you are not a documentary fan, let The Tillman Story be the one you take a chance on. This is a documentary that every American should see regardless of your stance on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This film is not about taking sides. It is about what the Army and the government did to a grieving family, to an honorable man.
I give The Tillman Story 5 “P4 Memos” out of 5 .
P.S. Check out the official The Tillman Story website. It is really informative, and may help you decide to see the film if you are on the fence. Also of note, the reason this film has an R rating is because of language only.