IAFF: Beware the Fallen Hero

What Pat Tillman’s Death Teaches Us

Pat Tillman was an NFL player who turned down a 3.6 million dollar contract to join the Army, along with his brother Kevin, after the 9/11 attacks.

Their father said,  “We were at war and the idea that my kids would allow someone else to fight their battles for them… I don’t think that sat well with either of them.”

Just after 9/11, Pat said, “A lot of my family has… gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that.”

Tillman was deployed to south-eastern Afghanistan and was on a routine operation in April of 2004 when a humvee broke down.

His unit was split up in order to try and tow the vehicle out while also completing their assigned objective.

One half of the unit later came under what has been described as “harassing fire” from the Taliban; hearing the gunfire, Tillman and others went to their aid.

As Tillman crested the ridge near the other unit he was hit in his chest armor by several rounds and shortly after was killed instantly by three more rounds to the head.

Pat Tillman was lauded as a great American hero and awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in fighting against the Taliban.

Lies and More Lies

Pat’s mother, Mary, said, “We were told Pat had been shot in the head getting out of a vehicle. That’s all we knew.”

Army brass lied to Pat’s family and the public and then tried to cover-up the details of his death by burning his gear and equipment, even his notebook, an act strictly against Army regulations.

They also shut down communications with the base where his fellow soldiers were quartered to keep them from talking to the outside world.

The Telegraph reports, “Within hours, an army captain, Richard Scott, was ordered to prepare a report on the incident. His draft investigation, prepared in a matter of days, was condemnatory. Tillman’s death, Scott concluded, was fratricide – the military term for friendly fire – and the result of an act of ‘gross negligence’ by soldiers in Serial 2.”

Tillman had been shot to death by his own unit when he was only 120 feet from them, a fact the Army tried to conceal to avoid both responsibility and embarrassment.

There was no “fog of war.”

The Truth Seeps Out

About a month after Tillman’s death, the Army admitted that he was killed by friendly fire while continuing to pile on more lies to try and conceal the details.

Awarding the Silver Star was a part of that clever strategy — paint him as a hero that no one would want to tarnish by asking inconvenient questions.

Here’s what Pat’s Dad had to say about that, “They gave him a medal and he didn’t deserve it. And that’s no insult to Pat to say that. He didn’t need a decoration. He was an outstanding human being and an outstanding soldier.”

The Army was using Tillman to protect themselves, a cowardly and craven act.

It was up to Tillman’s family to uncover the truth, which they doggedly did, in order to truly honor their son.

Pat’s Dad eventually wrote to the generals: “Telling us the truth about how Pat died was the least you could do.  Every one of you have disregarded your duty, acting deliberately and shamelessly to kill my son and lie about it… In sum, f**k you… and yours.”

The Sacred Search for Truth

When fire and EMS members are killed in the line-of-duty, there is a rush to accord them the status of heroes; Pat Tillman’s death is a sobering reminder that that can be a mistake as it may hide both truth and reality.

Tillman’s death was a direct result of leadership failures and incompetence; but for a few people speaking out and the Tillman family’s quest for truth, a lie would have prevailed.

Who serves the Tillman family’s role in our industry?

Certainly not our union.

Harold Schaitberger’s IAFF has crawled in to bed with equipment manufacturers, there are ten ads on our homepage right now, making it look more like Amazon than an advocacy organization.

That advertising is the perfect illustration of the fact that today’s IAFF belongs to the highest bidder, even when our union should be guarding and protecting us instead of making money on our backs.

It will take a longtime to undo Schaitberger’s destruction of true union advocacy as he fuels his lust for fancy steak dinners and high-priced wine.

In the meantime, if the worst occurs, remember that it is the union which must be the skeptic and critic in order to protect our brothers and sisters, a role that Harold Schaitberger has sadly relinquished.

A final point — Tillman would have been a superb IAFF member, his mother says about Pat and his Army Evaluations, “They said things like, he didn’t respect authority, all kinds of stuff…Pat didn’t suffer fools gladly, that’s for sure. But when there was authority to respect, he respected it.”

Pat Tillman called bullshit when he saw it.

We need more Pat Tillmans; respect his legacy.


  • Mike Mohler says:


  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    With all due respect, I don’t agree with Pat’s Dad. Pat is a hero in my book; dead is dead, whether by friendly fire or the enemy. And he didn’t have to have that kind of death. He opted to join our Forces when he didn’t have to. Again, that makes him a hero to me. Granted the Army may have had its own dishonorable reason for granting Pat the Silver Star; that doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve it.
    Please understand that I’m a patriot whose father served in WWII and whose grandpa earned a Purple Heart (proudly displayed on my wall) after three tours of duty in WWI.

  • Guy Montag says:

    @ Eric. You might enjoy looking through my Feral Firefighter blog posts. From 2008 to 2014 I wrote long “posts” about the bi-partisan whitewash of those responsible for the cover-up of Tillman’s friendly-fire death (e.g. 2014 “Something to Die For”). I’d also highly folks watch the 2009 DVD “The Tillman Story.”

    For what it matters, I was with an ABN RGR LRRP ARNG company for 8 years, and have since been with IAFF Local 366 the past 28 years.

  • Clay Norman says:

    I agree completely that the IAFF has been sold to the highest bidder. They need to get out of bed with the democrats. Im glad im retired and no longer pay dues.

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