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Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified 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 F...ing 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. Of course, his mother questioned this, saying his head had been blown off. She was told, "Ma'am, we usually aren't questioned about trying to save someone's life". Pat's younger brother, Richard, states in the book that he believed Pat had been murdered. It is important to remember that the driver of the attacking vehicle, Ranger Kellet Satyre,said he knew instantly when coming out of the canyon that his Ranger buddies were firing on U.S. Rangers, and saw Ranger vehicles, yet still continued towards Pat's position without turning his vehicle around and leaving the scene. He also failed to notify his buddies that they were firing at Rangers through three sequences of firing - one to reload. How did he escape courts-martial? All three Rangers claimed they had "tunnel vision" and did not see the Ranger vehicles in plain sight, in daylight. One claimed he had eye laser surgery the week before and only saw shapes....why was his eye doctor not court-martialed for allowing him to be out on patrol with a dangerous weapon among his buddies?

While the official version is that three of the snipers were shooting from a moving vehicle, Bryan O'Neil, the 18 year old Ranger by Pat's side, clearly stated that he was sure all four, including the driver, were, in the third firing sequence on Pat's position, on the ground, firing at Pat. Higher ups claimed he was too traumatized by the incident...yet, later Bryan's supposed account was put on the fictious silver star citation for Pat as a witness (however, there was no signature by Bryan or the other "witness". Their names were added as witnesses without their knowledge). The only signature on the award was by General McCrystal. Usually no award is given in the military without witness signatures, to my knowledge.

When the sniper that shot Pat with the S.A.W. machine gun was asked why he shot Pat when he was waving his arms over his head, he said he saw Pat waving his arms, but decided to shoot him anyway. If he could make out Pat's arms, then why not Pat's Ranger uniform, or his face? Most if not all of the Rangers with Pat were waving their arms and yelling "cease fire!". The men shooting at Pat all claimed they had "tunnel vision", and did not see all the Rangers waving their arms or the Ranger vehicles nearby. Bryan O'Neal, the Ranger next to Pat, and another Ranger just behind him, both stated that the men that killed Pat were no more than 120 feet from him, or less - in broad daylight.

The driver of the attacking vehicle, Kellet Satyre, claimed he knew "within a split second" of coming out of the canyon that there were Rangers and Ranger vehicles ahead of him, yet he failed, in the two lulls in firing at Pat, to tell his three passengers firing at Pat - or to turn the vehicle around and drive away, rather than to keep advancing.

Kevin Tillman, Pat's brother, who was in a vehicle behind the vehicle load of Rangers that shot up Pat, was not told what happened and quickly shipped out.

Mary Tillman and family were also told by Army brass that there were no bullet fragments left in Pat. The Army doctor's autopsy report said there were fragments in Pat.

The autopsy doctor, and his commander, refused to sign the coroner's report for three months. When he did, he stated there were marks on Pat's chest consistent with marks made by a defribalator. Why would he say this if he knew Pat's head had been blown off? Did he do the autopsy from photographs that did not show Pat's head? The marks on his chest were probably more consistent with Pat's body armor being hit many times...

Later, Ranger Kevin Tillman, was told he would be assigned to the same squad as three of the snipers that shot his brother, and sent to Iraq. He told his superior that he refused to serve with them. Bryan O'Neal, the Ranger with Pat, was sent back to Ranger school, then to the same squad as the driver of the vehicle that attacked Pat, Kellet Satyre. This driver tried to convince Bryan that it was Pat's own fault that he got shot. Strange set of circumstances, to say the least.

It is interesting to note, that Pat was not shot during just one rapid targeting sequence. He was shot at, then the shooting stopped, He was again shot at again, and he threw a smoke grenade. In addition, a sergeant on the ridgeline shot a signal flare. The firing stopped yet again. Pat assumed the smoke grenade signaled that they were Rangers, and again stood waving his arms, yelling, " It's Pat F... Tillman, Friendlies! Cease fire!", Supposedly the gunman were reloading, stated the lead gunman, a Sgt. Baker, and during the third firing sequence, Pat was shot first in the legs. When he fell to a crouching position, he was then shot in the chest, saved by his body armor. Finally, he received three shots to the forehead,by Ranger Stephen Ashpole, actually destroying his head. Nevertheless, they claimed he had CPR twice, so they could burn his body armor and clothes. Army regs require you to be alive in order to destroy the clothes as a biohazard. If it was acknowledged he was dead, the evidence, by regulation, could not be destroyed. The first person assigned to an investigation, which was later "lost", saw the body armor shot up. The four gunners also shot the platoon leader and the radio operator. All bullets found in anyone or any vehicle were "green tipped" - meaning U.S. issue.

When Mary Tillman questioned the Army brass on why the Ranger snipers fired a third time at Pat, after he threw a purple smoke grenade, they stated they were wrong about telling her it was purple, that it was actually white, and the snipers thought the massive amount of billowing smoke was just "dust be kicked up by the bullets". Mary Tillman said she was at the Ranger graduation ceremonies, where smoke grenades were used for theatrical effect, and found that hard to believe.

It doesn't help that Pat, with his enlistment almost up, had made an appointment with an M.I.T. professor, Noam Chomsky, a highly regarded intellectual and language acquisition research pioneer, who was against the Iraq invasion, to talk. In the minds of many, this adds cynical overtones to the story. You also have to ask why Pat was given more psychological evaluations than any other Ranger he knew.

What is all the more shocking and amazing is that people like Glenn Beck and O'Reilly never seem to read or look into things like this, and report to the American public. Is it simply incompetence, or calculated omission on their part?

The question at hand is, you must ask yourself if this was unintentional homicidal negligence - or was it intentional homicide? The homicide investigation requested by the Army doctors who did the autopsy report, and did not know it was "friendly fire", was refused by higher ups, so we may never know.

My heartfelt condolences to Pat's wife and family. Mary Tillman is a courageous woman who somehow managed to write this book and have the names of the people responsible brought out into the court of public opinion, including those who know them well, such as relatives, friends and others in their social circle. They must live with what they have done, whether they were active in the shooting or the coverup. There is a certain justice to that.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified 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. Records were changed; documents were lost. The list goes on and on. Then there are cruel, petty gestures on the part of some of the military. One of the officers placed in charge of one of the many investigations, for example, believed that no one in the Tillman family was satisfied or would ever be satisfied because they were atheists, unlike Christians, who could come to terms with "'faith and the fact that there is an afterlife, heaven, or whatnot.'" The Army reneged on its promise to fly Tillman's wife Marie to Dover, Delaware to meet Kevin Tillman with her husband's body. (An anonymous man had her flown there in his plane.) Then the Army tried to persuade Marie to have a military funeral for Pat.

Ms. Tillman includes many of the eulogies verbatim from her son's funeral--his baby brother Richard's was irreverent and deadly-- as well as written reports that she has received from the Army in her attempt at finding out the truth about Pat's death. She also prints here an article Kevin Tillman wrote for Truthdig entitled "After Pat's Birthday" that rises to the level of poetry: "Somehow those afraid to fight in an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started."

BOOTS ON THE GROUND BY DUSK-- the book gets its title from the order that Lieutenant David Uthlaut received on April 22, 2004 that his platoon (Kevin and Pat Tillman's) was to leave the town of Magarah and "have boots on the ground before dark" in Manah, a small village on the border of Pakistan-- is very well-written; and not all of it is so dark although parts of it are almost too painful to read. I'm thinking now of Ms. Tillman's account of the return of her son's body to the local mortuary in his hometown. I decided that if this brave woman could write the book, then surely I, who along with the rest of stay-at-home Americans, have been urged by my president to support the troops by going to the mall, can finish it. She said a couple of nights ago in a sparsely-attended reading she gave at the Carter Library in Atlanta that she wrote this book to encourage other families in the same predicament as she, families that have lost sons, daughters, fathers, and brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan, to help them deal with their grief. And she made this statement in the library of a former president of the U. S. and naval officer, who, when asked by a reporter on his 80th birthday, what he would want to be remembered most for as president, responded that no American soldiers died in combat during his four years in office.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified 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
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Our family had been following Pat Tillman's story after he left football here in AZ. I don't have anything to add to the other reviews, except condolences and compassion for the Tillman family. Thanks for writing this important book, Mary and Narda. Thanks for being patient and determined enough to tell the story. I am so sorry for your loss.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading about Mary Tillman's memories of Pat. However, I was surprised that nothing was mentioned in regards to Pat's ultimate revelation that the war in Iraq was, in his words, illegal. Also, Pat apparently was interested in speaking to Noam Chomsky after he discharge from service and possibly becoming involved in an anti-war campaign. It was also rumored that he was anti-Bush and that he convinced those in his platoon to vote for John Kerry in the 2004 election. I thought more of this would be in the book. It was a great read nonetheless. The world would have been much better if Pat had lived longer. What was said about John F. Kennedy could also apply to Pat: "He had everything but time."
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Mary Tillman has skillfully written a complex account of military and political blunder and deceit into which she expertly intermingles her own story and that of her family. The resulting narrative is personal, political and readable - all at the same time.

Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan over 500 American soldiers have died. Since George W. Bush invaded Iraq, in March of 2003, over 4100 have been killed and almost 4000 of those have died since the president's infamous declaration of "Mission Accomplished." Tillman's "Boots on the Ground By Dusk" is the beautifully written, but gut-wrenching story of one of those soldiers.

By this time, I suppose, there can be few Americans who do not understand the general outline of the Bush Administration's complex push for war in Iraq. That campaign, as it has been uncovered elsewhere, involved the deliberate use of distortion and misinformation ranging from unambiguous lies suggesting a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, to tales of the non-existent WMDs, to neocon assertions of an American democratizing mission in the middle east.

The larger-scale story of the Iraq war involves, among other things, the international repercussions of President Bush's attempt to assert American global hegemony in the 21st century. In stark contrast, this very personal book, written by the mother of pro-footballer-turned-soldier, Pat Tillman, is connected to that war at only the most basic level; that of the individual soldier. Nevertheless, as the book unfolds, it reveals a web of deception that matches the distortions at the international level. It is as if everyone connected to this administration's war effort is simply unable to tell the truth. It is as if dishonesty and manipulation have become part of their DNA.

The book begins with Mrs. Tillman's account of staring into a fire pit. She is sitting in front of her home, the home in which she raised her children, smoking, listening to the crackling logs, and thinking, "I light my cigarette wondering what I would do if I couldn't smoke, if I couldn't blow out my anger, frustration, and sense of crippling loss into the night." It is a stunning description of the isolation and helplessness that accompanies unbearable loss, but the book that follows is, in one sense, an answer to her question. When blowing out anger and loss "into the night" was no longer enough she would ask questions, investigate contradictions, and write.

In the earliest pages the reader is introduced to the extended Tillman family and how they become the people they are. They share ideas and debate issues. The attacks of 9/11 hit them hard and, in response, the two oldest sons, Pat and Kevin, decide to join the Army. It is not a popular decision. The youngest brother, Richard, reacts with anger, others are worried, and still others confused. Kevin is just about to leave a life in minor league baseball, but Pat will have to give up a promising career in pro football with the Arizona Cardinals. Pat and Kevin Tillman both become Army Rangers. On April 22, 2004 Pat is killed in Afghanistan.

Initially the family is presented a version of Pat's death that has him leading a charge up a hill. That story is soon contradicted by news (first heard from a reporter!) that Pat may have been killed by "friendly fire." The army then constructs an official version of death by fratricide, but as the reports come in they are full of contradiction and ambiguity. The family, led by the author, demands answers. After intensive investigation and vigorous questioning the official version of death by "friendly fire" is altered. As more reports are written and, as the family investigates each the story, the official version is altered again and again. Tillman convincingly demonstrates that none of the distortions are accidental. Even the narrative that accompanies Pat Tillman's posthumous silver star is shown to be deliberately false. Despite the fact that the story involves detailed descriptions of volumes of official reports and two congressional hearings the book reads like a good mystery with the reader anticipating the next twist, the next revelation.

Appropriately, it all begins with a quote from Charles A. Beard: "When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." In Mary Tillman's examination of this very dark incident in her life and, by extension, her examination of this very dark stain on contemporary American leadership, she manages to reveal some real stars. A mother who does not give up. Family members able to support each other in horribly difficult times. And Pat Tillman, a man of honesty and honor, who deserved better treatment from his government. "Boots on the Ground By Dusk" is an important contribution to our understanding of what has become of us in an era of politics by propaganda, but it is also a wonderful story of a family dedicated to finding the truth no matter what.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2010
Format: Audible Audio Edition
I've been listening to the audio cd's for a few weeks now while in the car on my (short) commute to work. It's a very difficult story to listen to. It's difficult because of the tragedy of what happened to Pat Tillman. It's difficult because of his mother's struggle to find out what really happened.

Mary Tillman's narrative discusses Pat's life and his unique character. That part of the narrative is indeed a tribute. She provides a picture of young man who was not perfect, but yet very admirable.

On the other hand, it was difficult listening to all the minute details and contradictions of the investigations. There was good visibility --there was poor visibility. The shooters were trigger happy -- the shooters thought they were being ambushed. He said "xyz," no, it was "abc."

"It makes no sense," Mary Tillman repeats over and over. That's right. It was a senseless killing. None of it made sense. "Why did they . . ." questions, over and over. Who knows why they did what they did? People screwed up. Officials kept changing their stories. No one was punished. Was Pat intentionally killed? There are hints, but nothing in the narrative explains what motive there might have been.

There is a truth here -- Pat, who gave up much to serve his country, was killed by his own men. The military did admit the fratricide. But they bungled things the way the military and the government often bungle things.

I'm not sure what more I need to know. Will we feel better if we finally get a report without contradictions? Will we feel better if military leaders are censured/punished for what happened? Maybe Pat's family will. But Pat's still gone, a bright star extinguished by a surge of ineptitude. And that's a tragedy for us all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mary Tillman and her coauthor did their homework in writing this story of her son and the aftermath of his combat death in Afghanistan. She was as objective as anyone could expect a mother to be, and she deserves credit for the overwhelming amount of time and research devoted to finding answers. I listened to the audio book version from my perspective as a biographer and retired senior officer with 32 years in the U.S. Navy. The book impressed me on both counts.

The complex writing structure especially impressed me. The authors picked an excellent staring point--when the Tillmans learned Pat's death had been a fratricide. The book then goes forward on parallel tracks, alternating present tense to move the story forward and past tense to fill in the background. I enjoyed the layered flashbacks and the challenge of piecing together the story as I listened. The anecdotes are out of order but not confusing. For example, we read about Mary's brother learning of Pat's death and going to her house before we read about her being notified of the death. Pat's selection as a pro-ball player is the final segment to complete the story of his life. I liked this arrangement because it emphasized his military career over his football career.

The audio version is read by the author, which adds intimacy to the telling of the story, but her sweet, soft, slow voice quickly became boring. Because she never changed her tone, it was hard to tell when "I" referred to her or to a transcript she was reading.

My only complaint about the book was the excess of meaningless dialogue and details, such as listing all the names in every scene. Instead of saying "the boys and their father," for example, she would say, "Kevin, Pat, Richard, and Patrick." We heard every "Hello, how are you?--I'm fine," and we went through step-by-stop processes such as getting up in the morning and making coffee.

Although I don't for a minute believe Pat Tillman's death was a planned conspiracy, I have no difficulty in believing a cover-up was orchestrated for public relations purposes after his death. That's a sorry way to treat a family and the American public. I read through the reviews on Amazon.com to see if anyone disagreed with Mary's research or complained about her leaving out vital information. No one did. I hope she someday gets the answers she seeks.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2010
Format: MP3 CDVerified Purchase
This book is a great companion-piece to the Krakauer book on Pat Tillman, "Where Men Win Glory," which I also loved. This one is from Tillman's Mom . . . and what a Mom she is. I have two sons in the military and thank God every day and night that they are still alive and well. Everyone in this country should know that not every family is so lucky. Many, like the Tillmans, have experienced that great loss and I think we should recognize their sacrifice and their love.
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