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You have got to be kidding — the sixth and seventh official investigations into the tragic death of U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman have been completed, and there are probably going to be at least nine more.
Since this great guy was killed by friendly fire, doing what he left the NFL to do — defend this country and fight in the war on terror — his family, friends, and a caring American public have been treated to one embarrassing, criminally incompetent moment after the other. It is as if the Army and the Department of Defense have turned into the gang that not only can’t shoot straight, it can’t even find the trigger. And this on the heels of the abysmal treatment of our soldiers in outpatient care uncovered by the Washington Post just a few weeks ago.
There simply is no — none, nada, nihil, nyet, nothing, not even a scintilla — of an excuse for this behavior.
Just so we are clear — the officers involved in this debacle, from the rank of lieutenant to three-star general, are without question considered the best in the Army. To be an officer in a Ranger Unit like Pat Tillman’s (in fact, in any Special Operations unit, from Navy SEALS to Army Special Forces) you have to have been a proven success in another unit.
The other officers named in the Department of Defense Inspector General’s report are, or were at the time, in the chain of command of our nation’s elite counterterrorism units — the best of the best. These officers are in total control of their units. So, when an incident like the death of Ranger Tillman happens, they all know (and did know) within hours. Yet, 11 days after Pat’s death, the Army lied to the family, saying he was killed by enemy fire. They also awarded him a medal he did not earn, the nation’s third highest medal, the Silver Star. Ranger Tillman, from everyone who knew him, would never have accepted a medal he knew to be full of, well, let’s call it “public relations.”
If it had been any other soldier but Tillman, his family could have screamed for years and never found out the truth. It is precisely because it was Pat Tillman, football star, that the family was able to keep the pressure on the Army to finally tell the damn truth.
What we now know is that this great guy was killed by friendly fire. It is tragic and painful, but friendly fire accidents happen in every war, and will continue to do so. The issue here is how the United States Army, through incompetent and self-serving officers, misled a grieving family and nation for five weeks — and then could not figure out what happened for almost three years.
And it’s not over yet. All the officers mentioned as being involved in this chaos will be punished in some fashion … and they should be. Then, Ranger Tillman will finally be able to get the peace all fallen soldiers deserve.
Colonel David Hunt has over 29 years of military experience, including extensive operational experience in Special Operations, Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Operations. You can read his complete bio here.