U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman's first mission as an elite Army Ranger in Iraq was the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, a new book reveals.
And although Tillman played only a bit part in Lynch's rescue, he quickly concluded that the mission had motives beyond military strategy.
"We leave tomorrow,'' Tillman wrote in a series of journal entries in Jon Krakauer's 'Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman," a new book about the tragic friendly fire death of the former NFL star who left a lucrative football career behind after 9/11 to serve in the military.
"This mission will be a P.O.W. rescue, a woman named Jessica Lynch. As awful as I feel for the fear she must face, and admire the courage I'm sure she's showing, I do believe this to be a big Public Relations stunt. Do not mistake me, I wish everyone in trouble to be rescued, but sending this many folks for a single low ranking soldier screams of media blitz."
Lynch had been falsely portrayed by Pentagon officials as a heroic soldier who went down firing her rifle at her Iraqi captors, when in truth she later testified that she never fired a shot and was captured after her vehicle crashed.
Watch the story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET and watch best-selling author Jon Krakauer's first live interview about his new book "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman" Monday on "Good Morning America."
Just over a year later, many of the same Bush administration officials and military commanders would scheme to transform Tillman's own death by friendly fire in Afghanistan into a similarly disingenuous tale of battlefield valor.
Tillman was one of the most potent and misused symbols of post-9/11 patriotism in America. As the most famous American soldier in the newly-launched War on Terror, Tillman had received a personal note of congratulations from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld after he enlisted.
The former Arizona Cardinals hitman was highly-suspicious of being used by his superiors to market a war about which he was openly ambivalent, according to Krakauer's book. When the Army asked Tillman to do media interviews, he refused. And soon after arriving in Iraq as an Army Ranger, he shared his wariness with a friend.
"When we were in Baghdad, our cots were next to each other," Spc. Jade Lane told Krakauer. "Pat and I used to talk at night before we'd rack out. I don't know how the conversation got brought up, but one night he said that he was afraid that if something happened to him, they would parade him through the streets. And those were his exact words: 'I don't want them to parade me through the streets.' It just burned into my brain, him saying that."
Under the 'special instructions' section of a standard Army form, Tillman had scrawled in block letters: "I do not want the military having any direct involvement in my funeral."
Krakauer supplemented months of frontline reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007 and scores of military documents with the exclusive access to Tillman's personal journals and interviews with Tillman's family, teammates and coaches, fellow soldiers and even neighbors on the block where his mother lived.
Woven through undulating tales of struggle, both global and personal, that crisscross lives and borders and history, is a sweet love story between a young athlete and his wife Marie, who he'd known since the age of four.