War Hero's Mother Finds 'Ground' After Tragedy

Under normal circumstances Mary Tillman would be considered a typical mom and career woman. But on April 21, 2004, her life would change forever. Her son, Pat Tillman, was killed in Afghanistan under a huge cloud of mystery.

What makes this story more troubling was that the details of his death were covered up and suspicion regarding a conspiracy soon plagued the family. Pat Tillman's death thrust this typical mom and career woman into the spotlight.

Tillman visited Santa Monica Public Library for a short reading and discussion of her book "Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman" on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

Arriving late, Tillman was casually dressed in a lime-green button down shirt and printed skirt accompanied by her son Richard and friend Ty, whom she thanked for coming before she began reading passages from the book. Published earlier this spring, the story details her family's fight to find the facts surrounding her son's death.

Pat gave up a promising career in the NFL to join the army rangers after 9/11. According to Tillman, "His enlistment was high profile," which made his death all the more important in the media and an embarrassment to the administration, because it was discovered that his death was caused by friendly fire conflicting with reports he died from enemy fire.

The truth wasn't revealed immediately. During their investigation, the people in charge had "collective amnesia" regarding the details of his death. 2004 was an election year, Abu Ghraib and Falluja were big stories the month Pat died; it was a critical time for the Bush administration.
Tillman believed there was a cover up of her son's death.

Pat's death was used to promote enlistment and they trumped up his death for the purpose of the administration. "We have a truth. Pat was killed out of gross negligence."

The collective response to Tillman and her book on Tuesday was positive. "I can't think of anyone who has given up what he's given up for what he believed was right. That's impressive," said Michael Zahn, who played high school football against Pat in San Jose.

"The book was very revealing. I was inspired by the way Pat lived his life. He gave up a lot to go to war. Not many people would do that," added Alex Kizu, Santa Monica College student.

Following the discussion, Tillman signed discounted copies of her book and said the whole experience of telling the story has been healing for the family.

"We've taken it as far as we can, to the extent that we can. We're at peace. Pat would be happy that we took it to the point that we did."

What is the next step for this mother who quit her career as a special education teacher to pursue the truth? Tillman wants to work helping returning vets.