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Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman Hardcover – April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tillman, the mother of the late professional football player and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman, and former journalist Zacchino collaborate for this disturbing story of a mother's desperate search for the truth of her son's death. Pat Tillman constantly defied expectations; following 9/11, he shocked his family and football fans everywhere when he quit the NFL and joined the army rangers. On April 21, 2004, while on a combat mission in Afghanistan, Pat was killed in a firefight. Although commanders knew almost immediately that friendly fire was the likely cause of his death, the family wasn't told for weeks. Her suspicions aroused, his mother demanded answers, and the more she learned about the army's inept handling of her son's death, the more she was convinced that there was a conspiracy. Bereft, besieged by suspicions that the administration orchestrated [Pat's] death, Tillman recounts her story bravely, but her obsession with fixing blame and her recourse to conspiracy theories compromises her credibility. The result is a troubling, uneven account that raises serious questions, but offers little in the way of insights or answers. (May)
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From Booklist

Reminiscent of the 1979 TV movie Friendly Fire (in which a woman tries to find out how her son, a soldier in Vietnam, died at the hands of his own comrades), this gripping real-life account chronicles Mary Tillman’s attempts to get a straight answer about the death of her son, Pat, in Afghanistan in 2004. Tillman, who put on hold a career as a pro football player and enlisted in the army, was shot to death during a mission that was (to judge by the evidence presented here) poorly planned and disastrously executed. Although it seems clear that Tillman was killed by American soldiers—shot in the legs and then three times in the head—by men who surely should have known they were killing one of their own, the exact circumstances seem deliberately obscure. The army kept giving Tillman’s family a new version of the story of his death, often contradicting previous versions but never answering any of their questions. The book, which superimposes Mary’s search for the truth over memories of her son’s life, is both emotional and frustrating. We, like Mary Tillman, feel angry and bewildered over the government’s apparent lack of interest in providing her with a simple explanation for her son’s death. This story has made headlines for the last several years, and while there are no final answers here, those who have followed the controversy will be eager to hear from Tillman’s mother. --David Pitt

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Times; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594868808
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594868801
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Don J. Voss on September 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most intriguing and troubling part of Mary Tillman's book about Pat Tillman is found at the back of the book. It seems that journalists had used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain from the Pentagon, no less, a copy of the Army doctor's autopsy report on Pat. While the Army doctors state that they virtually never before questioned the official versions of events given to them, this time they did. They said that after Pat had been shot in the legs by three or four of his own men, and fell to a crouching position, still yelling "Cease fire! Friendlies! It's Pat Tillman! Ceasefire!", he was then shot in the chest. Since he had body armor on, he was still alive. However, he then received three bullets from a 50 caliber machinegun between the eyes to the forehead. The doctor's said the spray pattern was so close together, that the machine gunner had to be very, very close. 60 to 120 feet away, not the much greater distance that the official version stated. The doctors said the gunmen were so close, they may have known who they were shooting, or should have - so they asked for a homicide investigation - and were turned down by Army brass. The officer that was initially charged with the investigation (which was later "lost"), walked the spot Pat was shot 24 hours later, found the smoke grenade Pat threw about 90 to 120 feet and which landed where the attacking vehicle's tracks ended, showing he was quite close. It was after this smoke grenade went off, and the attacker's quit firing a second sequence, that Pat stood - and was shot in a third sequence of firing,in three seperate places. Although Pat had his head essentially blown off,and was put into a body bag - the Army officially claimed he was still alive and had CPR performed - twice.Read more ›
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many of the facts of Corporal Pat Tillman's life and tragic death have been played and replayed: his joining the military from a deep love of his country after the attacks of September 11, 2001, his giving up a career as a professional football player and leaving his young bride to do so, his platoon's ill-fated mission in Afghanistan that led to his death on April 22, 2004, his memorial service where the likes of Maria Shriver and Senator John McCain gave eulogies, his receiving both the Purple Heart and Silver Star for bravery, then the news soon thereafter that he had died of (such an ugly oxymoron) friendly fire.

Now Tillman's mother Mary covers both the life and death of her son, the effect it has had on her, his wife Marie, his brothers Richard and Kevin-- who was in the same platoon as Pat-- his father Patrick, other family members and a multitude of friends. Additionally with the determination and courage of a woman possessed-- why shouldn't she be-- she traces the family's quest to find out the truth of what really happened on that awful day in April, 2004. Her journey will take her to countless meetings with military types, where she has difficulty getting a similar story from different people, and ultimately to two Congressional hearings.

What Ms. Tillman learns is sad and depressing beyond measure as she and others excavate the layers of a cover-up. Apparently Corporal Tillman was given CPR hours after he died so that his uniform could be destroyed since the bullet holes in it would indicate clearly that he died from U. S. fire. (If a soldier is still alive, his uniform, because it is a biohazard, can be taken off him and destroyed.) A Navy Seal was told to give false information about Tillman's death when he spoke at his memorial service.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Natalie Cutajar on October 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unlike many other reviewers, I was not aware of Patrick Tillman until his death and its subsequent coverup were reported in the Australian media. I was immediately struck by this extraordinary man's story.

Boots on the Ground by Dusk is one of the most difficult books I have ever read. Written by his mother, Mary, the book intersperses the story of the family's search for the truth with stories of Patrick's life before the army. Although I felt a great deal of admiration for him before reading the book, my grief at his loss is now even more profound.

It is often said that only the good die young. In the case of Patrick Tillman, this is certainly true. He had a strong desire to live a meaningful life. His death at the hands of lessor men is tragic and unjust. The government's attempt to coverup the circumstances surrounding his death is simply outrageous. Patrick Tillman and his family deserve better.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Our country was shocked when Pat Tillman, who left a lucrative NFL career to join the army, was killed in Afghanistan in April, 2004. But that was just the beginning of it. The circumstances under which Tillman was killed, were unclear, and as it turned out were covered up. Now comes this book from Pat Tillman's mom.

In "Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman" (344 pages), Mary Tillman (with help from journalist Narda Zacchino) brings an blistering indictment of how the Army misinformed and covered up the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death that fateful day. The first part of the book brings a mix of the author's memories about her son, together with the confusion if those early days and weeks after his death of what happened. Mary Tillman's recounts of how she dealt with the loss of her son are heartbreaking (I found myself choking up one a number of occasions). But the real value of this book comes in the second part of the book, in which she dissects, page after page, fact after fact, how the Army's explanations were inconsistent and untruthful. It is nothing short of an eye-opener.

When a country is at war, "friendly fires" are going to happen, you can say. But is it not acceptable that the authorities (in this case: the Army) are not forthcoming about what really happened. The culprits in this tragedy are many. I do not understand the mentality that clearly exists about covering up the facts. Pat Tillman was a 'celebrity' and hence this incident has gotten a lot of attention, but as Mary Tillman points out in her book, there are many other incidents like it that have not gotten the attention but still happen. This book is not an easy book to read, in fact it makes for a devastating read, but I nevertheless highly recommend it. The "authorities" need to be accounted for, and be held accountable. The last has not been said on the Tillman case. Meanwhile my heart goes out to Mary Tillman and her family.
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