Patrick Tillman, former NFL player, made national headlines when he gave up his lucrative sports career to join the U.S. Army Rangers.
Tillman, one of the most potent symbols of post-9/11 patriotism in America, was gunned down by friendly fire in 2004.
Revelations abound in Krakauer's new book, coming from interviews with friends and relatives, and Tillman's personal journals.
Read an excerpt of the book below and then click here to find more great reads at the "GMA" Books page.
Ever since Homo sapiens first coalesced into tribes, war has been part of the human condition. Inevitably, warring societies portray their campaigns as virtuous struggles, and present their fallen warriors as heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for a noble cause. But death by so- called friendly fire, which is an inescapable aspect of armed conflict in the modern era, doesn't conform to this mythic narrative. It strips away war's heroic veneer to reveal what lies beneath. It's an unsettling reminder that barbarism, senseless violence, and random death are commonplace even in the most "just" and "honorable" of wars. Consequently, and unsurprisingly, when soldiers accidentally kill one of their own, there is tremendous reluctance to confront the truth within the ranks of the military. There is an overwhelming inclination to keep the unsavory particulars hidden from public view, to pretend the calamity never occurred. Thus it has always been, and probably always will be. As Aeschylus, the exalted Greek tragedian, noted in the fifth century b.c., "In war, truth is the first casualty."
When Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, his Ranger regiment responded with a chorus of prevarication and disavowal. A cynical cover- up sanctioned at the highest levels of government, followed by a series of inept official investigations, cast a cloud of bewilderment and shame over the tragedy, compounding the heartbreak of Tillman's death.
Among the several thousand pages of documents generated by military investigators, some baffling testimony emerged from the Ranger who is believed to have fired the bullets that ended Tillman's life. In a sworn statement, this soldier explained that while shooting a ten- round burst from his machine gun at the hillside where Tillman and O'Neal were positioned, he "identified two sets of arms straight up" through the scope of his weapon. "I saw the arms waving," he acknowledged, "but I didn't think they were trying to signal a cease-fire." So he pulled the trigger again and sprayed them with another ten- round burst. How was one supposed to make sense of this?
Or this: in July 2007, the Associated Press published an article reporting that the Navy pathologist who performed Tillman's autopsy testified that the forensic evidence indicated Tillman had been shot three times in the head from a distance of thirty- five feet or less. The article prompted widespread speculation on the Internet and in the mainstream press that he had been deliberately murdered.