When Pat Tillman was deployed to Iraq for the first time, he did something he had done throughout his love affair with his wife, Marie — he wrote her a letter.

Except this one was never meant to be read.

It sat through two deployments on the bedroom dresser, eventually buried under piles of receipts and greeting cards.

Then, during Pat’s tour in Afghanistan, Marie got the news she had long feared. Her husband would never be coming home.

That night, she crept to the bedroom dresser, unearthed the letter and opened it.

[pullquote]

She immediately recognized his familiar scrawl. The pages were a mess of ink and scribble. There were words and whole sentences crossed out.

She closed her eyes before reading his words:

“It’s difficult to summarize 10 years together, my love for you, my hopes for your future, and pretend to be dead all at the same time . . . I simply cannot put all this into words. I’m not ready, willing or able.”

Still in shock, Marie had not cried since she heard the news of her husband’s death. Reading his words, she wept.

Marie thought of the hundreds of letters that they had shared during their 11-year relationship — an affair she chronicles in her book “The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, & Life” (Grand Central) out Tuesday.

Tillman died at 27 a tragic hero — a man who left behind a lucrative contract with the NFL to join the Army, then was killed in a friendly-fire incident initially covered up by the military.

“But that is not the story I wanted to tell,” Marie told The Post.

Click for more from the New York Post