The death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman occurred ten years ago this week, and the story of Tillman’s patriotism has been tied to the truth of what happened to him ever since he was killed in 2004. While the initial story had been that Tillman was killed by enemy fire while on tour in Afghanistan, it was later revealed that friendly fire was the likely cause of his death which made his story of heroism even more powerful.
With the revelation that Tillman was likely gunned down by friendly fire, there hasn’t been much else to say about the incident until today when ESPN and Outside The Lines published a report that details the incident from the perspective of Army Ranger Steven Elliot, who is the man who may have fired the rounds that killed Tillman.
You aim at a point, and you fire a burst. You are holding your trigger for a fraction of a second, but that fraction of a second releases three to five rounds. If it looked like you had (three) rounds and very close to one another, well, that was very consistent to how I was firing my weapon at that point. … It would be disingenuous for me to say there is no way my rounds didn’t kill him, because my rounds very well could have.
The story — everything about it — highlights the tragedy of war and the price of freedom. It also highlights the chaos of war and how one mistake can set off a chain of events that ends in tragedy.
No one is vilifying Elliot as a murder or as a scoundrel who fired his weapon at random because he’s neither of those things. If he’s anything at all he’s brave for telling this story like he has. While he may have been the one who pulled the trigger that accidentally ended his fellow soldier’s life, he’s not leaving Pat Tillman or the any memories about him behind on the battlefield.
If anything, the closure this helps bring to Tillman’s loved ones is worth the price of having to re-live the painful memories that are only now becoming public knowledge.