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Pat Tillman’s Friendly Fire Killing

April 23, 2020

April 22 was the 16th anniversary of the friendly fire killing of Army CPL Pat Tillman, a football hero and man of honor who gave up millions in potential earnings to serve his country. I just watched the documentary movie “The Tillman Story” as I do every year on the anniversary of his death. The movie uses actual footage from that time and interviews with key people involved. It documents Tillman’s death and the massive cover-up regarding the real reason for his death. The cover-up involved several of our most senior military officers, the Secretary of Defense and possibly, even the President.

The reason I suggest that we reflect on this incident is because I believe that senior members of the military should be role models for the rest of our nation, and I am concerned that our military training is failing at this. I know of no consequential changes with respect to honor training in the military since the Tillman incident. Frankly, it appears to me that the evidence suggests we are heading in the wrong direction. As one example, USAF Col (ret) Fred Malmstrom’s research regarding honor code compliance at our military academies reveals steadily increasing incidents of violations of their codes. If our academy graduates do not maintain high standards, it is unlikely that other officers will do so.

Sadly, there is no reason to expect that, if an incident like the Tillman killing were to occur today, our senior military leaders would do anything differently than they did in the cover-up following Tillman’s death.

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