Monday, September 20, 2010

The Tillman Story

Tonight I saw The Tillman Story, a documentary about the late Pat Tillman.

It's a story that's far too familiar: a good American man wants to serve his country so he enlists in the military, goes on a tour of duty and is killed in the line of fire.

Only Pat Tillman wasn't just any soldier—he was a former football star who gave up millions of dollars and the promise of doing something he loved for the rest of his life to fight for the US.

Sent to Iraq (alongside his younger brother, who enlisted at the same time), Private Tillman was killed on Earth Day in 2004 by members of his own troop. First, the military claimed Tillman was a hero in combat against the enemy. Then, when word got out that it was truly friendly fire that got him, they billed it as an "accident." But the men who served alongside Pat knew better, and eventually, they spoke.

Tillman's mother, Mary, simply wanted the truth she was entitled to, and that's what this film is about.

It's about a family's struggle for answers, a group of soldiers who were friends of Tillman and wanted the truth to come out, and a collective of high-level government officials who covered up the real story so they could turn the Tillman death into a public relations stunt in favor of the war.

Talking head interviews with Tillman's family and fellow soldiers are the bulk of the film, but the commentary is never dull. We see footage of formal hearings, scenes from his memorial service in San Jose, and video from the actual day he died, in the area where he perished.

The movie is at once frustrating and devastating, but there is validity in its existence if only to expose the corrupt powers-that-be to anyone left who may mistake them for honorable.

Refreshing as well is the approach Tillman's mother has, which indicates she doesn't want her son to be thought of as a hero any more than any other soldier who traded his life for his country.

Though the lack of closure in the matter may make you angry as you leave the theater, you'll be proud to know that true Americans like the Tillmans still exist.


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