Pat Tillman Deserved Silver Medal: McChrystal : The Two-Way One of the enduring controversies in the case of Pat Tillman, the former pro football star turned soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, is whether he should have been posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
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Pat Tillman Deserved Silver Medal: McChrystal

One of the enduring controversies in the case of Pat Tillman, the former pro football star turned soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, is whether he should have been posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

Cpl. Pat Tillman is seen in a this 2003 file photo provided by Photography Plus. AP Photo/Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions, FILE hide caption

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AP Photo/Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions, FILE

According to the Army's criteria:

The Silver Star is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The required gallantry, while of a lesser degree than that required for award of the Distinguished Service Cross, must nevertheless have been performed with marked distinction. Soldiers who received a citation for gallantry in action during World War I may apply to have the citation converted to the Silver Star Medal.

One of the harshest critics of Tillman being awarded the medal was the late David Hackworth, the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War who was also one of the best-known commentators on the U.S. military.

Back in 2004, he wrote:

The word is that Tillman did his best to turn off the friendly fire, that he reportedly exposed himself while yelling for it to stop and then was cut down. Under these circumstances a Soldier's Medal for noncombat-related heroism would have been the appropriate award. But someone with pull pushed for a Silver Star - which had to have been approved by at least a major or lieutenant general.

The bottom line here: A Perfumed Prince with stars approved Tillman's Silver Star and its use as a Pentagon P.R. tool for the same sick reason the Pentagon brass anointed Pvt. Jessica Lynch, gave her medals she didn't earn and turned her into an instant Joan of Arc-like heroine.

The "Perfumed Prince" drawing Hackworth's ire, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was asked by Sen. John McCain at the general's confirmation to be the top commander in Afghanistan, to explain Tillman's Silver Star and if he still supported his decision. McChrystal said he did and that the problem wasn't making the award but that the Army rushed the award-determination process for emotional reasons: it wanted to be able to give the award to Tillman's family at a memorial service.

Here's his exchange with McCain.

SEN. MCCAIN: The death by friendly fire of Corporal Tillman was a great tragedy, as we all know. And the pain of the loss of this American hero to his family was compounded by the misinformation that quickly spread about the circumstances of his death, some of which were included in the recommended citation for the award of the Silver Star Medal. It was forwarded by his commanding officer through you as the commanding general of the Joint Special Operations Command and approved by you on April 28th, 2004. Can you describe what happened in April with respect to the information about the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death and why you forwarded the Silver Star recommendation in the form that it was in?

GEN. MCCHRYSTAL: Senator, I can. I appreciate the opportunity to do that. Corporal Tillman was killed on the 22nd of April. And in the days following, as with -- in the loss of any soldier, a number of things happened, administrative and just practical things that occurred. I particularly took part in two things. I arrived back into Afghanistan from a meeting in Qatar with General Abizaid on about the 23rd. And I was informed at that point that they suspected that
friendly fire might have been the cause of death, and they had initiated what we call a 15-6, or an investigation of that. And so we initially were waiting for the outcome of that initial review before we went forward with any conclusions. So it was a well-intended intent to get some level of truth before we went up.

At the same time, we looked at his potential award for valor. And any lost soldier, they immediately look and determine whether an award was appropriate. In the case of Corporal Tillman, a Silver Star was recommended. I sat down with the people who recommended it, but that was higher than some had been given, and we went over a white board and we looked at the geometry of the battlefield and I queried the people to satisfy myself that, in fact, that his actions warranted that, even though there was a potential that the actual circumstance had -- of death had been friendly fire.

And I need to stress here, we had a number of famous people in American history killed by friendly fire -- Stonewall Jackson, Lesley McNair and the like. And I don't separate -- or I don't believe that the circumstance of death detracts from his courage, commitment, or contribution. So I was comfortable recommending, once I believed that the people in the fight were convinced it warranted a Silver Star and I was, too, with forwarding that.

I also sent a message informing my chain of command that we believed it was fratricide. And we did that when we were told there were going to be fairly high-profile memorial services.

Now, what happens in retrospect is -- and I would do this differently if I had the chance again -- in retrospect, they look contradictory, because we sent a Silver Star that was not well-
written. And although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture -- or I didn't catch that if you read it, you could imply that it was not friendly fire. And also when I sent the message, the intent entirely was to inform everybody up my chain of command so that nobody would be surprised.

If I had it to do all over again -- and we subsequently changed Army policy after this, because the intent on awards at that time was to do an award rapidly so that it could be presented to the family at the memorial service for their comfort. What we have learned since is it is better to take your time, make sure you get everything right with the award and not rush it. So I say that in the two things which I believe were entirely well-intentioned on my part, and, in my view,
everyone forward that I saw was trying to do the right thing. It still produced confusion at a tragic time. And I'm very sorry for that, because I understand that the outcome produced a perception that I don't believe was at all involved, at least in the forces that were forward.

SEN. MCCAIN: And you believe that Corporal Tillman earned the Silver Star by his actions before he died?

GEN. MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, I absolutely do. I did then; I do now.