Boots on the Ground by Dusk
My Tribute to Pat Tillman
Publication Date: April 29, 2008
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On April 22, 2004, Lieutenant David Uthlaut received orders from Khost, Afghanistan, that his platoon 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. It was an order the young lieutenant protested vehemently, but the commanders at the Tactical Command Center disregarded his objections. Uthlaut split his platoon into two serials, with serial one traveling northwest to Manah and serial two towing a broken Humvee north toward the Khost highway. By nightfall, Uthlaut and his radio operator were seriously wounded, and an Afghan militia soldier and a U.S. soldier were dead. The American soldier was my son, Pat Tillman. The Tillman family was originally informed that Pat, who had given up a professional football career to serve his country, had been shot in the head while getting out of a vehicle. At his memorial service twelve days later, they were told that he was killed while running up a hill in pursuit of the enemy. He was awarded a Silver Star for his courageous actions. A month and two days after his death, the family learned that Pat had been shot three times in the head by his own troops in a "friendly fire" incident. Seven months after Pat’s death, the Tillmans requested an investigation. Boots on the Ground by Dusk is a chronicle of their efforts to ascertain the true circumstances of Pat’s death and the reasons why the Army gave the family and the public a false story. Woven into the account are valuable and respectful memories of Pat Tillman as a son, brother, husband, friend, and teammate, in the hope that the reader will better comprehend what is really lost when our sons and daughters are killed or maimed in war. In the course of three and a half years, there have been six investigations, several inquiries, and two Congressional hearings. The Tillmans are still awaiting an outcome.
MARY TILLMAN is a special education teacher in San Jose, California, where she lives. NARDA ZACCHINO is former associate editor of the Los Angeles Times and former deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in Berkeley, California.
"Alongside fond memories and recollections of Pat's charismatic bluntness and self-sacrificing nature, Mary details her family's exhaustive search for the truth with the help of allies ranging from Senator John McCain to retired General Wesley Clark to numerous investigative reporters...the chilling results yielded by the Tillman family's unflagging efforts indicate that Pat's death was, at best, a result of gross negligence and incompetence on the part of the U.S. Army and, at worst, a sinister coverup by high-ranking officials willing to lie to a soldier's family and hoodwink the public in exchange for higher approval ratings." - Kirkus Reviews