Pat Tillman was made into Horst Wessel by these clowns.
He was much more than that, including a vociferous critic of Bush and his Iraqi policies.
Yet other Tillman family members are less reluctant to show Tillman’s unique character, which was more complex than the public image of a gung-ho patriotic warrior. He started keeping a journal at 16 and continued the practice on the battlefield, writing in it regularly. (His journal was lost immediately after his death.) Mary Tillman said a friend of Pat’s even arranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the antiwar author, to take place after his return from Afghanistan — a meeting prevented by his death. She said that although he supported the Afghan war, believing it justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, “Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war.”
Baer, who served with Tillman for more than a year in Iraq and Afghanistan, told one anecdote that took place during the March 2003 invasion as the Rangers moved up through southern Iraq.
“I can see it like a movie screen,” Baer said. “We were outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren’t in the fight right then. We were talking. And Pat said, ‘You know, this war is so f— illegal.’ And we all said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s who he was. He totally was against Bush.”
Another soldier in the platoon, who asked not to be identified, said Pat urged him to vote for Bush’s Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Stephen White — a Navy SEAL who served with Pat and Kevin for four months in Iraq and was the only military member to speak at Tillman’s memorial — said Pat “wasn’t very fired up about being in Iraq” and instead wanted to go fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He said both Pat and Kevin (who has a degree in philosophy) “were amazingly well-read individuals … very firm in some of their beliefs, their political and religious or not so religious beliefs.”
Baer recalled that Tillman encouraged him in his ambitions as an amateur poet. “I would read him my poems, and we would talk about them,” Baer said. “He helped me grow as an individual.”
Tillman subscribed to the Economist magazine, and a fellow soldier said Tillman created a makeshift base library of classic novels so his platoon mates would have literature to read in their down time. He even brought gourmet coffee to brew for his platoon in the field in Afghanistan.
Baer said Tillman was popular among his fellow soldiers and had no enemies. “The guys who killed Pat were his biggest fans,” he said. “They were really wrecked afterward.” He called Tillman “this amazing positive force who really brought our whole platoon together.
He had this great energy. Everybody loved him.” His former comrades and family recall Tillman as a born leader yet remarkably humble. White, the Navy SEAL, recalls one day when “some 19-year-old Ranger came and ordered him to cut an acre of grass.
And Pat just did it, he cut that grass, he didn’t complain. He could have taken millions of dollars playing football, but instead he was just taking orders like that.”
Mary Tillman says that’s how Pat would have wanted to be remembered, as an individual, not as a stock figure or political prop. But she also believes “Pat was a real hero, not what they used him as.”
He was more than a cardboard, cookie-cutter hero.
Most all of them are -- and like Tillman they are misused in death as they were misused in life.