Tillman Family Blasts Military

April 24, 2007, 4:27 PM

April 24, 2007 — -- Private Jessica Lynch told Congress today that Pentagon stories about her war heroics were not true.

In reality, when she was captured in Iraq in 2003, Lynch's weapon jammed and she prayed for help.

"I'm still confused as to why they chose to lie and try to make me a legend," Lynch said in her testimony Tuesday morning.

The Pentagon pushed another false story in April 2004 -- that Army Ranger and former pro football star Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan protecting his men from the enemy.

In 2004, Lt. Col. Matt Beevers, a spokesman for the U.S. military, said, "The firefight ensued. And that's when specialist Tillman was killed."

Tillman was actually killed accidentally by U.S. troops.

In dramatic testimony, his younger brother, Army Ranger Kevin Tillman, charged the Pentagon with fraud, saying it destroyed crucial evidence such as his brother's uniform and notebook.

Kevin Tillman speculated his brother's myth was created to change headlines.

"It shifted the focus from the grotesque torture at Abu Ghraib to a great American who died a hero's death," Tillman said before Congress Tuesday.

Pat Tillman's mother, Mary, said these "smokescreens" diminish what true heroism is.

"It may not be pretty. It may not be out of a John Wayne movie, but that's not what war is all about," she said. "It's ugly, it's bloody, it's painful."

Army Specialist Bryan O'Neal, an eyewitness to Tillman's death, testified he was commanded to keep that information quiet from Tillman's family.

"I was ordered not to tell him what happened," O'Neal said.

The Tillmans wondered in their testimony how high up the misinformation campaign went.

A week after Tillman died -- and a month before the his family learned the truth -- a memo was sent to three top generals warning them it was "highly possible … Tillman was killed by friendly fire."

Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent the memo after hearing the president might mention Tillman in a speech "which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public."

When the president lauded Tillman in his speech days later, he did not mention how Tillman was killed.

"It's a bit disingenuous to think that the administration did not know about what was going on, something so politically sensitive," Kevin Tillman said.

The White House said it could find no evidence the president was informed of that memo at the time. The Pentagon has yet to discipline anyone for spreading any of this false information.

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