Book Review: Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman (2008) by Mary Tillman with Narda Zacchino.
His selfless story about leaving the NFL, and millions of dollars, to serve his country is a rare and inspiring one.
Unfortunately, his decision resulted in his death in Afghanistan by fratricide.
Then, this tragedy was compounded by misinformation about the circumstances of his death.
Mary Tillman (Pat's mother) isn't one to be misled. Almost immediately after learning of Pat's passing, she asked numerous questions, read voluminous documents, and met with multitudinous officials. She even testified before Congress. This odyssey didn't lessen her pain; it only seemed to heighten it.
Perhaps writing this book will give Ms. Tillman the peace she seeks. It's more likely she will find it by extolling her son, than examining the government's failings.
In lauding her son (subtitled, My Tribute to Pat Tillman), the book really shines. It provides intriguing details about Pat's upbringing and life before joining the Army Rangers. He was a voracious reader, a man of unquestionable integrity, and an inspiring example of leadership, among other things. He never seemed to take the easy or conventional way through life. He made decisions according to his strong sense of morality. For example, before he turned down millions by joining the military, he demonstrated his loyalty by taking far less money to play for the Arizona Cardinals because they believed in him (by drafting him in the seventh round), while eschewing a much more lucrative free-agent contract to play with the St. Louis Rams.
In particular, I found the tributes Ms. Tillman included from Pat's memorial service to be staggering. Sports radio personality Jim Rome's stood out:
"I decided quite some time ago the first athlete I would ever tell my son about would be Pat Tillman.
"I can't wait to sit my son down and tell him how much I admired Pat, to tell him about that legendary Tillman intensity, his hunger, his desire. I can't wait to tell my son that it's not necessarily about being the fastest or the strongest or the most athletic because Pat was never any of those things. But nobody rated higher in those intangible qualities that you could develop: hunger, desire, courage, competitive spirit, integrity, honesty, selflessness, the things that make you a great athlete and a great man...
"Pat's the man we should all aspire to be, a man of honor, courage, patriotism, and loyalty. Money, material possessions, luxury cars, huge mansions--these things meant nothing to Pat. Integrity, relationships with family, friends and teammates meant everything...." (p. 157.)
I can't wait either.