Saturday, February 06, 2010
"Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman" by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer has a gift for telling stories of extraordinary achievements by remarkable individuals in such a way that those heroes become accessible to the reader and appear as fully-realized human beings. This was the case for me when I read "Into Thin Air" and "Into the Wild." He continues his string of soul-stirring stories with "Where Men Win Glory."
I first learned of the death - the sacrifice - of Pat Tillman in the Sports Illustrated article that told of his decision to leave his job in the NFL to enlist in the Army and fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was so moved that I hung a picture from that copy of SI in my office as a reminder of all those who make similar sacrifices to serve our nation. Little did I know how much more there was to this story. Krakauer's book brings to light the rest of the story of his death by "friendly fire" that has been teased out over the active resistance and obstruction by many in the upper echelons of the Army, Department of Defense and White House. As told by Krakauer, this is a story that makes one proud of Tillman and other heroes who have covered themselves sacrificially in glory. The story also makes one cringe at the ineptitude and mendacity of those who acted less than heroically - on the battlefield and in the comfortable offices back in the Pentagon and in the White House.
The blurb on the back of the book gives an apt overview of this book:
"Pat Tillman walked away from a million-dollar NFL contract to join the Army and became an icon of port-9/11 patriotism. when he was killed in Afghanistan two years later, he became a tool for white House propaganda. Thus a legend was born. But the real Pat Tillman was much more remarkable, and considerably more complicated, than the fiction sold to the public."
If you are anything like I am, reading this book will make you weep and gnash your teeth. Our sons and daughters who step up to go abroad and fight our wars deserve better treatment than that which was given to Pat Tillman, his brother Kevin and others in his unit. The families of those who fall deserve better treatment than that accorded to Tillman's wife and family.
At the end of the day, I reflect on what I want to think and feel as a result of the multiple-layered tragedy that was the death of Pat Tillman and the subsequent cover-up. As I reflect, I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln's parting words as he stood by the gravesite of the thousands who had fallen at Gettysburg as a result of the large-scale fratricide that was our inglorious Civil War:
"But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."