Pat Tillman

Football Player / Soldier

Born: 6 November 1976
Died: 22 April 2004
Birthplace: Fremont, California
Best known as: The NFL-playing soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan
Pat Tillman was the professional football player who turned down a lucrative career and joined the U.S. Army in 2002, but was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 -- by his fellow troops, a fact suppressed by top military commanders and members of President George W. Bush's administration. Tillman, a standout defensive player for the Arizona Cardinals after 1998, spurned a three-year, $3.6 million contract to enlist in the Army, moved to action by the events of 11 September 2001. He and his brother, Kevin Tillman, enlisted in June of 2002, and Pat Tillman served in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He then completed Ranger training (November 2003) and was assigned (with Kevin) to the 75th Ranger Regiment. While surveying Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, Tillman was killed in a firefight on 22 April 2004. Military decorations for Tillman and a nationally televised memorial service hailed him as a hero who died fighting the enemy. After more than a month, Tillman's family learned the truth, that a series of errors had led to Tillman being killed by members of his own unit, and that military officials had tried to keep it secret. Investigations in 2006 and 2007 revealed that evidence had been destroyed at the scene, and that General Stanley McChrystal had sent a secret memo to the White House in April of 2004, saying it would be unwise to speak publicly about the circumstances of Tillman's death because there was a strong possibility Tillman had been killed by "friendly fire." In the end, investigators concluded attempts to cover up the facts fell short of an actual crime. The lack of transparency and accountability in the matter has since given rise to conspiracy theorists who question the circumstances of Tillman's death and speculate about the motives behind the cover-up.
Extra credit: Pat Tillman was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year after leading Arizona State University to a championship in 1997 (he was #42)... Tillman was the 226th pick in the 1998 NFL draft... He was #40 for the Arizona Cardinals... Tillman was an atheist and an avid reader... He participated in the 2003 rescue of soldier Jessica Lynch... Tillman's mother, Mary "Dannie" Tillman, published Boots on the Ground by Dusk in 2008, and Jon Krakauer published Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman in 2009... The Tillman Story, a documentary by Amir Bar-Lev about Tillman's death and the government cover-up, was released in 2010.

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More on Pat Tillman from Fact Monster:

  • Pat Tillman - Biography of Pat Tillman, The NFL-playing soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan
  • General Stanley McChrystal - Biography of General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, 2009-2010
  • Selected Biographies: T - Selected biographies of well-known people and fictional characters
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