I can’t remember which Krakauer book I read first—Into Thin Air or Into the Wild. Whichever it was matters little at this point. What is clear is that he is a singularly gifted story teller and a meticulous researcher when it comes to uncovering what he can of whatever truth remains hidden.
This book is utterly gut-wrenching. And, yet, like several of his other works absolutely crucial reading.
I’m not a football fan at all, and can’t claim to have been aware of Pat Tillman or his talents as a player, let alone what team he played for. His name was only familiar to me because, like many, I’d read stories or headlines about the former NFL player-turned Ranger in the wake of 9/11. And, how he tragically lost his life serving in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
To learn the details, or what we can, of what ultimately occured in Afghanistan to an individual with unimaginable integrity and bravery leaves me further enraged beyond words by wars that never should have been launched. To read the lengths high-ranking individuals went to to keep key details regarding the circumstances of his death not just from the public but from Tillman’s family leaves me sickened. What an obscene and callous slight to the ultimate sacrifice he made, and what an utter disgrace to his memory.
This book will remain with me for quite some time. Part Two features a quote from Chris Hedges that haunts me and should haunt all, particularly those who make decisions regarding the willingness of a nation to enter any war: ‘War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians.’
As much as Pat Tillman lived by a measure of integrity and honesty and goodness which we’d all do well to emulate, so many have betrayed him and what he so courageously chose to serve for. He wasn’t merely a jock joining a war he necessarily believed in. He was a thoughtful, principled, learned man who served a cause he thought to be a part of the greater good. His memory and legacy deserve infinitely more than the betrayal they’ve received.