Mary Tillman shares her side of the story with Rotary Club

Mary Tillman

The Rotary Club of Morgan Hill welcomed Mary Tillman to the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center Wednesday.
Tillman is the mother of former Arizona Cardinals NFL player Pat Tillman, who nine years ago at the age of 27 was ruled by the Pentagon to have been killed by friendly fire in the mountains of Afghanistan, where U.S. troops were attempting to engage the enemy.
A brief trailer for “The Tillman Story”, a documentary depicting how the military manipulated into a propaganda tool Pat’s tragic death in the line of duty, was shown at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting. The film was directed by Amir Bar-Lev and first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010.
Following the clip, Mary retold the controversial story of her son’s death in Afghanistan in 2004 to the 150 people present at the event. Pat’s former football coach from Leland High School in San Jose was a special guest in attendance.
“It has been a long time since I’ve spoken about the story but I will always tell the story if people want to hear it,” Mary said.
Her son’s tale made national news almost a decade ago due to the skepticism and investigation that ensued over the true cause of Pat’s death. Army officials initially told Pat’s family that he was struck in the line of duty by enemy fire. As more details began to unravel, however, the Tillmans suspected the government was lying.
“They told us that his brother, Kevin, was next to Pat when he was killed,” Mary said. “But it was later revealed that Kevin was actually 15 miles away from Pat. What the government was telling us was not to adding up.”
After a investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Pat’s cause of death was ultimately ruled as being the result of friendly fire.
Members of Pat’s army unit had burned his body armor, uniform and notebook in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that he was killed by friendly fire. Mary said she thinks now, more than she did in the past, that her son was actually murdered.
After explaining her side of the story to the media in the aftermath of her son’s death, Mary felt a lot of people misunderstood her family’s quest for the truth as an attack on the military.
“I still believe in our country,” Mary explained. “But we need more transparency in this country and we need to demand it.”
On Wednesday, Mary opened up the floor for audience members’ questions, many of which centered on the government’s lies about deaths in the military.
Mary stayed after the event to sign her book, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman.”
Brad Ledwith, President of the Rotary Club of Morgan Hill, had organized Mary Tillman’s appearance through John Pelosi, a good friend of Mary’s. Ledwith sent Mary an email nine months in advance, inviting her to speak at the Rotary Club’s meeting.
“I admired her desire to figure out the truth. I am a father of four and I cannot imagine losing one,” Ledwith said.
This was Ledwith’s first Rotary Club meeting as the new active president and said he chose Mary as a speaker because he thought she was the epitome of the Rotarians’ guiding principles, known as the Four Way test. It is based on truth, fairness, goodwill and benefiting all concerned.
“We promote the Four Way Test and Mary’s story shows that she followed the test while the government did not,” Ledwith said.