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04-11-06, 12:10 PM
April 17, 2006

Truth for Tillman family

Next month marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman. His memory lives on as an all-American tale of inspiration, a millionaire football player who quit the high life to serve his country as an Army foot soldier.

But his death leaves lingering questions the Army has yet to answer.

Tillman was shot and killed April 22, 2004, while on patrol with his 75th Ranger Regiment comrades in Afghanistan.

Initial reports hailed him as a hero, and within three weeks of his death — and in time, miraculously, for his nationally televised memorial service — he was awarded a Silver Star for bravery in action.

Only later, after he had been buried, did the Army tell his family that Tillman had actually been shot by his own forces, not the enemy.

Now, the Defense Department has ordered a new criminal investigation — the fifth inquiry into the tragic case — in an effort to get the answer his family wants: Was anyone criminally responsible for Tillman’s death?

But the inquiry should not stop with the shooting accident. Just as important now is whether Army leaders intentionally lied and misled the public about the circumstances of Tillman’s death. Was the Silver Star merited, or was it part of the elaborate cover-up, misrepresenting the square-jawed Ranger as a hero, rather than a victim?

Seven soldiers in Tillman’s unit already have received nonjudicial punishment for their actions on the day Tillman died. The latest investigation must go further to determine if others up the chain of command knew the truth about Cpl. Tillman’s death and then told or tolerated lies. The Army’s sloppy handling of this case has damaged its credibility not only in the eyes of the Tillman family, but in the eyes of millions of Americans who have followed this case. It’s time to get to the bottom of the shenanigans.

With truth will come closure.