Sep 8, 2011, 7:05 PM EDT
I saw The Tillman Story for the first time on Sunday. My reasons for waiting until now? Um, I’ve been busy working on my latest project: a Broadway musical based on the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the climactic closing number, a woman leaves her husband at the altar and dances off with Vol. 33: STR-ZWO.
But that’s still no excuse. In truth, I haven’t seen it because I knew it would make me mad. Stark truths would come to light, tightly-held assumptions would be challenged, haunting details would, well, haunt me. There would be tears, and possible chafing. Do I need that? And then the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks began looming large on my calendar, and I figured, hell’s biscuits, I’d better get to watching it. It just seemed a moral imperative, somehow.
For those who haven’t seen it: No matter how much you think you know about Pat Tillman and the events surrounding his death in Afghanistan, you need to see this film. The Tillman Story is our story, the American story, and is a fitting tribute to all who have given and continue to sacrifice so much for the country.
Make no mistake, you’ll be horrified at the way the military and the Bush administration lied, obfuscated and covered up the events surrounding Tillman’s death — by friendly fire, as it turns out — during a mission in April, 2004. It sickened me to watch our top generals and Donald Rumsfeld appear before a Congressional committee and play the “I don’t recall what I knew and when I knew it” game. The lengths to which the Tillman family had to go just to find out how their son died, let alone who covered it up and how high the lies went in government, is mind-blowing. And we still don’t know the entire truth.
Scenes that will stay with me forever:
Generals with chestfuls of medals lawyering up in front of Congress. Hey, wait, this is the scene in the movie where the general has an epiphany of conscience, right? This is where Col. Jessup yells, “You can’t handle the truth!” Sorry, no. This is no movie. In real life, our top military leaders have no honor. Apparently they don’t give out medals for that.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the eventual fall-guy in the friendly-fire coverup, saying that in the Army, “You just follow orders and get the job done.” Seems to me I’ve heard that bef … yeah, the Nuremberg Trials.
The fact that Tillman’s uniform and gear were all burned, to hide the evidence. Is this the U.S. Army or a cheap Mafia hit?
Two Army officials on the phone, remarking that the only reason the Tillmans weren’t “letting this go” was because they aren’t religious. I guess religion really is the opiate of the masses.
The NFL season begins today, when once again we’re reminded that our sports heroes not only have feet of clay, but in many cases heads of mush. I won’t besmirch Tillman’s name by mentioning the extreme cases here. But let it be known that in the real world, a lot of good continues being done in Tillman’s name, off the field.
“People reacted emotionally across the country and around the world about his decision to leave football and join the Army, and then when he was killed it had a profound impact on people,” said Marie Tillman, Pat’s widow. “It’s great to hear (what people have done in his name) because it is the lasting legacy he leaves.”
There’s Sheldon Davidson, a 60-year-old war veteran who said that Tillman’s memory helped him finish a charity run when his body wouldn’t let him go on. And Brian Webster, a Phoenix physical education teacher who assigned his students an essay on Tillman.
“The title of the paper is ‘Remember his Name,’ so 10-15 years from now, when they hear the name Pat Tillman, I want them to remember the name,” said Webster, who also drew a portrait of Tillman on the gym wall. “I don’t want him to disappear over time, for people to forget him.”
An excerpt from one of the essays:
“I can make a positive difference in the live(s) of others by see(ing) what I have here in front of me and not taking anything for granted. Maybe I could donate some of my things to homeless people and show my kindness and love I have for my family and our WORLD!!” — Savannah M
Rick’s Cafe Americain appears on Thursday. Contact: Rickchand@gmail.com.
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