Monday, May 12, 12:00 p.m. ET

The Life and Death of Pat Tillman

Mary Tillman
Mother of Pat Tillman, author "Boots on the Ground by Dusk"
Monday, May 12, 2008; 12:00 PM

Mary Tillman, mother of NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman, was online Monday, May 12 at noon ET to discuss her new book about his life and the investigation into his death while serving in Afghanistan.

A transcript follows.

Mary Tillman will be doing a reading 7 p.m.. Monday, May 12 at Olsson's-Penn Quarter, 418 7th St. NW, Washington D.C.


Mary Tillman: Hello,
My name is Mary Tillman. I'm taking this time to respond to questions you have about my book, Boots on the Ground
By Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman, or questions about the investigation into Pat's death.


Virginia: Hello. My prayers are with you. Will you advise young people to go in the military?

Mary Tillman: Thank you.

I do believe going into the military is honorable, however
I would not advise young men and women to join the military at this time. This administration does not have the interest of the soldiers in mind, and the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are not being handled responsibly.


Anonymous: Based on what you know (found out), do you feel there were attempts to cover up?

Mary Tillman: Yes, I know there was an attempt to cover up Pat's death. The Congressional Oversight Committee has already said there was a cover up in Pat's death. The committee, however, can't determine where accountablility falls.


Charlottesville, Va.: Hello Mrs. Tillman,

First, I greatly admire your son, Pat.

Have you lost faith in our country, given the way you have been treated? I am a Vietnam vet and find myself more and more disappointed in our government and even our society. We seem to be losing our way.

Mary Tillman: Thank you for your gracious words about Pat.

I have not lost faith in this country, but I'm disgusted with this coubtry's leaders right now. The current administration has lied repeated to the American public in the last eight years, and Congress has not held anyone accountable. Congress has the power to hold them accountable, but not the courage to do so.

The public must be more vigilant.


Milwaukee, Wisc.: I applaud your family for fighting so hard for the truth to be know about your son's tragic death. Has the Defense Department answered, to your satisfaction, your questions? In light of your family's plight, do you see any changes or improvements with regard to leveling with family members?

Mary Tillman: The Defense Department has raised more questions than it has answered with regard to Pat's death. Much of the information we have received is quite troubling to us.

I'm hoping the book draws attention to the deception and that public pressure may cause some changes.


Anonymous: Have you met other families dealing with the similar situation? And, how far up the government ladder to you think the cover-up went?

Mary Tillman: We have met at least six families that are in the same situation we are in, and we have received emails or letters from many others.

I believe the cover up went straight to Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld wrote a letter to Pat after he enlisted thanking him for joining the Army. Pat was cetainly in his radar.
My family and I learned that Rumsfeld sent a memo to the Deputy Sec. of the Army a year or so after Pat's enlistment, indicating he believed Pat was a special young man at that the military should keep an eye on him. It is not believable that Rumsfeld was not told of Pat's "friendly fire" death right away. He had to be involved in the cover up.


Rockford, Mich.: Have any of the politicians on Capitol Hill been helpful in you search for the truth about your son's death?

Perhaps Sen. James Webb (Va.) might be sympathetic to your cause? His only son is a Marine infantryman in Iraq and his novels over the past 30 years have dealt with themes of integrity, honor, and betrayal. I was particularly struck by the parallels between your son's fratricide and Webb's novel "Something to Die For" (with Silver Star on the front cover).

Mary Tillman: There have been Congressmen who have been quite helpful at various points. I have not contacted Sen. Webb, but I have been told by several individuals recently that I should. Thank you for suggesting him.


Tampa, Fla.: I've read that your son had some problems with military over religious issues. Could you discuss this, if you don't mind?

Mary Tillman: Pat was never confronted by anyone to our knowledge, but a Colonel Kazlaurich made insulting remarks about Kevin and the rest of our family for not being religious. He made the remarks in his testimony during the investigation and during an interview with an ESPN reporter.


Auberry, Calif. : Mrs. Tillman, you have my utmost sympathy for the loss of your son, and you fully deserve the full story as to what happened to him. My question is twofold: Do you see a parallel in the aftermath of Pat's death in the Jessica Lynch incident? And second, a Sports Illustrated article on Pat mentioned that he was on the mission to free her from captivity -- has she thanked you and Pat's brother for his part in her rescue?

Mary Tillman: There is certainly a parallel in the Jessica Lynch incident and Pat's death. Both stories wre contrived by the military. The military and the administration used two young people for their propaganda purposes.

Jessica did thank Kevin for his part in her rescue when we were at a Congressional hearing last spring.


Bowie, Md.: As far as you have been able to determine, was Pat intentionally shot by his own men? If so, why?

Mary Tillman: We do not believe at this time that Pat was intentionally killed by his own men. We did question that at various points in the last four years, however, due to the suspicious nature of the information. We now believe the soldiers were grossly negligent and there should have been more accountability.


Washington, D.C.: Ms. Tillman,

I admire your son for placing duty to country above his career in sports. To what extent do you think your son's celebrity influenzed the military's response to his death?

Mary Tillman: Unfortunaltely, I believe the fact Pat was high profile contributed to the military's attempt to use him as a propaganda tool,however the military has a pattern of covering up the truth of soldiers' deaths.


Bethesda, Md.: Mrs. Tillman, thank you for sharing your rief and frustration. I hope the latter leads to some much-needed changes in military procedures.

I was wondering about Pat's wife, who I believe is also named Mary. Clearly she is a much more private person, which is fine. Since losing a spouse may be even more difficult than losing a child (I've lost both, and both are wrenching), I hope she has been able to come to terms with all this and find a bit of peace.

Mary Tillman: Thank you for your words of comfort.

Marie is doing well. She has very hard days, of course, but she is moving on with her life. Currently, she is heading Pat's foundation and doing a wonderful job.


Colonel Kazlaurich made insulting remarks about Kevin and the rest of our family for not being religious: That is frighteningly UnAmerican... that REALLY scares me if we're turning into a nation where the military coerces folks into certain religons. Do people remember why this nation was founded?

Mary Tillman: Good question!


Omaha, Neb.: Dear Mrs. Tillman, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how much I admire your son. It must bring you great joy knowing you and your husband raised such a fine human being. After your son's death, I read his book I've got things to do with my life, I collected as many news clippings as possible, purchased his Cardinal game jersey and still wear the wrist band that says, "Never forget #40." Your son seemed to have life figured out. To live the way he did, a life with no regrets is something very rare. I one day would like to visit your son's grave, and pay my respects to a incredible human being. I realize that you receive thousands of e-mails about Pat and can't reply to all of them, but if you do get the chance I would be honored to hear from you. I wish you and your family only the best. Respectfully, Mark Mallett. My e-mail address is Once again, thank you.

Mary Tillman: I thank you for your kind words about Pat.


Mexico City: Mrs. Tillman, is it true that your son Pat vehemently opposed the war in Iraq, as I have read in several sources?

Mary Tillman: Yes, Pat did oppose the war in Iraq.


Rockville, Md.: Forgive me for this basic question, but what first made you beleive that Pat's death was a cover-up by the DOD.

Mary Tillman: We first suspected something was wrong when we heard four different versions of Pat's death in a two month period.


Woodbridge, Va.: Mary...I am sorry for your loss. Pat was an outstanding person and his service to our country is to be commended. What role, if any, has faith in god or religion played for you in your family both prior to his death and during your recovery?...Thanks

Mary Tillman: We are not a religious family.

Thinking about the fine person Pat was and reminding ourselves how lucky we were to have had him in our lives has helped us heal.


Arlington, Va.: Your book is well written and is a wonderful tribute to your son. I look forward to meeting you this evening at Olsson's.

Mary Tillman: Thank you so much. I appreciate your compliment.

I will see you this evening. I look forward to meeting you as well.


Fairfax, Va.: Mrs. Tillman,

I look forward to reading your book. I think that this is an amazing way to channel your grief and shine a light on the truth that for some reason was missing from the story of someone who really valued it. You exemplify the spirit of motherhood, fighting for your kids and the truth as you have.

Has anyone officially apologized for the way your family was treated? And I mean the lying about and exploitation of his death?

Mary Tillman: Thank you for your kind words.

The military has apologized for mistakes and errors, and certainly mistakes and errors were made; however, there was also a deliberate attempt to cover up the truth of what happened to Pat in order to use him as a propganda tool. No one will admit to that or apologize for it. Those responsible must be held accountable.


Harrisburg, Pa.: One of my prized possession is a football card that your son signed for me. I thank you for being with us today in what I know must be a hard subject to continually speak about. Would you please tell us a little about how your son felt about football and how he put service to his country above even his career?

Mary Tillman: Pat loved playing football, however, after the September 11th tragedy, Pat and his brother felt football and baseball were no longer important. Many young men and women were giving up the really important things in life: their freedom, their voice, and time with their families and friends to serve their country, Pat and Kevin felt they should do the same. Howver, they did not know the administration would be change course and go to Iraq.


Richmond, Va.: I have to say I've been pretty cynical about your son's choices, or perhaps confused. Not that I think he should have chosen the football because of the money or fame or safety -- but more not convinced he could have made a difference in such a messed up situation? Honorable, yes.

But I have read here and feel I have learned a lot about personal strength from your writing. Thank you.

Mary Tillman: Thank you for asking the questions.


New York City: Hello Mary. I had read that Pat had spoken openly about his views on the Iraq War being an unjust and illegal war, and that before his death he had made plans to meet and discuss this with Noam Chomsky and perhaps go public. Do you know if this was true, and if so, whether he may have been silenced because as a high profile soldier, his anti-war stance may have been deemed dangerous by pro-war interests?

Mary Tillman: Pat did speak openly about his discomfort over the Iraq invasion. He also was planning to meet with Noam Chomsky because he found his views interesting and wanted to discuss them. Pat had a friend who went to MIT, he was arranging the visit.

I have no way of knowing if Pat would have gone public with his views. He was not anti-war, but he strongly questioned our invasion of Iraq.

Pat was a free thinker.


Lexington, Ky.: What have you found to be the most effective way to cope with such a tremendous loss?

Mary Tillman: For me, it has been by talking about Pat and remember what a fine person he was. I have also found it healing to write the book


Mary Tillman: I would like to thank everyone for your questions. You have been very gracious.

For those of you who have not read the book, it is called Boots On the Ground By Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman.

Warmly and respectfully,

Mary Tillman


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company