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Dannie Tillman is a mother, teacher, and a hero. She didn’t go to war like her son, Pat Tillman, and she didn’t pick up a gun and go fight the Taliban, no, her hero status comes at the strength and resiliency in pursuing the truth surrounding the cover-up, when it came to her son’s death. That is the focal point of a brilliant documentary, The Tillman Story, retelling the story of the one time NFL Football star and American U.S. Soldier, Pat Tillman and the political cover-up of his death.If you can take one thing away from this film is that mothers will fight to the end to protect their children whether in life or death and that is what Dannie Tillman did for her son Pat. 

Pat Tillman was an NFL star who gave up a multimillion-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to serve his country in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Tillman became the most famous enlisted man in Afghanistan and served his country until he died. Now hearing a story like this it’s easy to call Tillman a hero, it’s easy to call him a Patriot but what you get from the film is that Pat Tillman wouldn’t care and wouldn’t want all the accolades bestowed upon him, he wasn’t that guy, Tillman was about family, his fellow soldiers and doing the right thing. 

Pat Tillman died from friendly fire on a rocky hillside near the Pakistani border. The bullets, coming at him from 40 yards away at a rate of 950 rounds per minute, dropped him to the ground and were from a machine gun shot by a member of his own platoon. As his team member, Private Bryan O’Neal, describes the moment when Tillman died;

“I remember the sound of a drinking fountain…And I look over at my side and I see this blood pouring down this rock that I’m sitting by. His head was gone. Completely gone. And I take my helmet off and I throw it against the ground and then I kind of black out.”

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“I’m Pat Tillman! I’m Pat fucking Tillman! Why are you shooting at me?” Tillman’s last words, now this is where the cover-up begins, after Tillman’s death officers on the scene ordered his diary destroyed, his body armor, uniform, and vest set ablaze. Army Ranger Russell Baer, who was there when Tillman was killed, was ordered to accompany Tillman’s flag-draped coffin to the States, but to say nothing about it to Tillman’s family, including Tillman’s younger brother Kevin, a Ranger in the same platoon who was also with the coffin on the cargo plane. “Keep your mouth shut about it,” Baer was told. Days after Tillman’s death the spin machine of the pentagon told the media that Tillman was hit with an errant bullet during a choatic ambush. Now from here Dannie Tillman could have taken the explanation the Army gave here and moved on with her life but as she recounts in the film; 

‘You want to believe they’re telling you the truth…and yet you’re getting this terrible sense that you’re being lied to.’

And she was being lied to, after her son’s death an investigation into the killing recounted everyone’s testimony to what happened when Tillman was killed. The investigation compiled up to 3000 pages of documents which Dannie had to rifle through to find the truth. After Dannie pieced together what she could she realized that

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