What the military did to the memory of Pat Tillman, the football player who gave up a lucrative career in the NFL to join the Army and eventually die in Afghanistan, was wrong. The fact that Tillman was felled by friendly fire in 2004 and the military then covered up all traces of that information is a colossal betrayal of trust, if not a criminal act.
The government campaign that followed attempted to valorize Tillman as a heroic figure and symbol of national pride, indicative of the war planners' desperate need to invent heroes and good news at that point in the war. Tillman was awarded a Silver Star and a story was spun about his heroic conduct, sacrificing his life to spare those of his buddies.
None of this was true, although the facts are still open to question. That we have learned this much about the Bush administration's culpability in the cover-up is due to the tenacity of Tillman's family, in particular his mother, Dannie, who pored over 3,000 pages of heavily redacted documents, piecing together portions of the truth.
The documentary The Tillman Story makes effective use of commentary by Tillman's survivors, who resent the way the military lied to them and exploited the memory of their loved one. By extension, the nation was deceived, and this movie recounts all the details. Director Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) implicates Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Tillman mess, and there are indications that knowledge of the cover-up extended all the way to the White House.
The fact-finding mission was ultimately stonewalled by Congress, as we witness in heartbreaking footage of the cover-up hearings. The government may choose to stick its collective fingers in its ears, but we, the people, can do otherwise.