Pat Tillman was an accomplished professional football player who turned down big money and countless benefits because of his patriotism. He gave up a notable career in the National Football League by volunteering to serve in the Army Rangers with his brother after the 9-11 attacks. Tillman considered it his duty.
He was sent to Afghanistan and was killed by "friendly fire," despite his efforts to protect himself and his comrades. He was not the first soldier ever killed by fellow soldiers, but the circumstances of his death were nonetheless painful and tragic.
The way he died takes nothing away from the heroism he and the members of his platoon displayed. He deserves the honors and the medals that came his way, especially under the circumstances the government has been so slow to explain.
The evidence is that the dedicated Tillman did all he could in impossible circumstances to deal with enemy forces and help his comrades. Confusion that occurred after an Army squad split into two groups resulted in Americans launching an assault on Tillman and several comrades.
Some American forces mistakenly fired on Tillman and a few others. Pinned down, he and his men shouted, waved their arms and sent up flares. "Cease fire! Friendlies!" Tillman reportedly shouted. One Ranger told Army investigators Tillman never stopped trying to help until he was cut down by misguided friendly fire.
For too long, the Army tried to obscure just how and why Tillman and his fellow soldiers had died. That does not lessen the valor they displayed or tarnish the medals they received. It does blacken the reputation of the government, which has been reluctant to step forward and explain the tragic situation.
Why did it take so long, and who was covering for whom? As one observer remarked: "The Army should know America can handle the truth."
Too often our government doesn't seem to understand that.