Mary Tillman, Seeking the Truth About Her Son

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Mary Tillman speaks to students at Palo Alto High School in California.

Mary Tillman has conducted a long fight to expose the government's mishandling of important details of her son's death. Here, she speaks with students at Palo Alto High School in California in April 2006. Michael Benson/'The Paly Voice' hide caption

toggle caption Michael Benson/'The Paly Voice'

Pat Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, faced Defense Department officials Monday as they offered the latest explanation of what happened to her son in Afghanistan. Mary Tillman says her family believes it was given "a very imbalanced presentation."

"A lot of the information they gave us was based on what the individuals that were actually in the shooter vehicle – that was their point of view," she says. "They didn't give any kind of information based on anyone else in the situation. I mean, it's a very complicated situation; that's why it's hard to put it in some kind of a nutshell. All I can say is that what we received was very imbalanced."

Steve Inskeep talks with Mary Tillman about the results of the investigation and her effort to learn the truth.

Well, I suppose there are at least two separate issues here. One is what actually happened to Pat Tillman on the battlefield.


And the other is what the U.S. military did with whatever information it had about that over time.

Well, and the thing that's also upsetting is that the original investigation, the one that was done within hours of Pat's death, or the one that was started immediately after he died... . And that particular officer indicated he saw evidence of homicidal negligence or criminal intent. That investigation was sort of put to the side. And then another investigation was put into place.

That original investigation we can't get our hands on, and they say it's because it was never signed. Yet, the officer himself said he gave a recommendation. You know, these kinds of things are very upsetting.

They told us that these soldiers drove by, in a matter four seconds, and shot up the ridgeline in a fog of war. Yet, when you go through the documents, it's very clear that witnesses indicate that these soldiers stopped the vehicle. Some of them got out of the vehicle. One for sure got out of the vehicle and was shooting. It's not like they drove by in a fog of war.

So on these two issues – what happened to Pat Tillman and what did the military do with the information that it had – the military says they made critical errors in reporting what they knew, but there was no criminal wrongdoing in the shooting. It sounds like you're not satisfied.

No, we're not satisfied with that. We're not saying that Pat was intentionally killed ... . We may have some questions about that, but that's nothing that we could ever prove. And I don't want to get into that. But, he died on [April 22, 2004]. His memorial service was May 3. They could have told us the truth. And if they didn't want to tell us the truth, they could have said that we don't know, we're doing an investigation. But what they did is they made up a story. That's not a misstep, and that's not an error. They made up a story. It was presented on national television. And we believe they did that to promote the war.

I imagine this meeting that you had with military officials yesterday must have been the latest, or perhaps the last of many meetings you've had where they've tried to explain what they know.

Right. And they always lie. And I'll be quite honest with you. The meeting was a travesty. I mean, we were lied to... . They told us that we were abusive. And I responded back that, you know, lying is a form of abuse, and we've been lied to for three years.

They said you were abusive to them.

They said we were abusive. And we were ...

Were you raising your voice?

I wouldn't have wanted to have been them. I mean, we got to the point where we were extremely rude to them, but they ... were just lying.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from