Six investigations and several congressional hearings would follow Tillman's tragic death. While some of the Rangers in the firefight were reprimanded and bumped back to the regular Army, no one was ultimately held responsible.
The official misrepresentations in both the Lynch rescue and the Tillman friendly fire death came to represent some of the worst aspects of a highly controversial war in Iraq. It would be several years before both Lynch and Tillman's families would find voice, together, at a hearing on Capitol Hill called 'Misleading Information From the Battlefield."
"The handling of the situation after the [Tillman] firefight was described as 'missteps, inaccuracies and errors in judgment which created the perception of concealment,'" Tillman's brother and fellow Ranger Kevin Tillman testified before Congress in April 2007, with Jessica Lynch sitting nearby.
"Writing a Silver Star award before a single eyewitness account is taken is not a misstep,'' Kevin Tillman said. "Falsifying soldier witness statements for a Silver Star is not a misstep. These are intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition for fraud.
"Delivering false information at a nationally televised memorial service is not an error in judgement. Discarding an investigation [the first one] that does not fit a preordained conclusion is not an error in judgement. This is not the perception of concealment,'' Tillman's brother said. "This is concealment.''
Late in the afternoon on April 22, 2004, the Tillman brothers were part of a convoy of Army Rangers in eastern Afghanistan's Khost Province, one of the most dangerous regions in the fractious country. The platoon had been stopped for six hours while the platoon's lieutenant argued with superiors back at headquarters about a disabled Humvee. Regulations prohibited the men from stripping the Humvee for parts and detonating it and no helicopter was available to airlift it out, they were told.
The platoon was ordered to tow the wreck to a paved road on the far side of a mountain summit. But they were also under orders to have "boots on the ground" in a nearby town to complete the day's mission, scouring the small village for arms and insurgents. It was, Krakauer says, the most ordinary of missions, one of dozens of sweeps they do each week.
Despite vigorous objections from the Ranger commander on the ground, who argued that splitting the platoon would put both groups in danger, the platoon was divided. The first half of the group, dubbed Serial One, headed through a narrow canyon toward the village of Mana. Pat Tillman was in Serial One. The other half of the platoon, Serial Two, took a different route toward a mountain pass. Tillman's brother, Kevin, was in Serial Two.
But Serial Two's route appeared impassable, Krakauer reports, so they retraced their steps and followed the same route Serial One had taken -- through a dangerously narrow canyon.
Krakauer describes Pat Tillman and the first convoy's journey through the canyon.
"For the next twenty minutes the convoy crept through the claustrophobic rift, forced by the severity of the terrain to move at an excrutiatingly slow pace,'' he writes. "The slot was so tight that the Humvees' fenders scraped against its sheer walls. The Rangers remained twitchy and anxious, expecting to be attacked from the high ground at any moment."