11 February 2011

Book Review: Where Men Win Glory

When my dad told me Where Men Win Glory was about how the Army covered up the details of Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire, I was a little turned off. But Jon Krakauer wrote the book, so I figured it had to be good.

And it was - very good. Krakauer's book is about much more than an Army cover-up; it's a book about an outstanding American who walked away from a life of comfort with a beautiful wife and a great salary to become an Army Ranger.

But Pat Tillman was more than a football player and an Army grunt; he was a philosopher who wasn't afraid to speak his mind, or write it in his journal. Pat's writings were some of the greatest parts of the book:
Sometimes my need to love hurts - myself, my family, my cause. Is there a cure? Of course. But I refuse to stop loving, to stop caring. To avoid those tears, that pain...
But of course, Krakauer is also a great writer, and he does a great job of superimposing events in Afghanistan and Iraq with Pat's career, two narratives on an unpredictable collision course. And after the collision has occurred, Krakauer pulls no punches, criticizing high-profile leaders in the Army and in civilian life for their deception of Pat's family and the public. Most of these leaders, Krakauer wryly notes, got promoted during the cover-up. So much for integrity in leadership.

The strength of Pat's character is an inspiration, and the reaction of Army senior leadership to the disastrous news of his death is a good lesson in what not to do.

Sometimes, the truth hurts. I can't imagine what it would feel like to tell Pat Tillman's little brother, as he pulled up in a Humvee once the ambush was over, that his brother was dead on a stretcher, killed by bullets from his own teammates. But if I was that little brother, I would want to know the truth, and I would hope the men around me could tell me, even if they had to take my weapon first.

Tillman's alpha male personality may be regarded by some to be his tragic flaw - his bravado led him out of comfort and into death. But Tillman died trying to save the life of one of his buddies from the bullets of some other buddies. Where Men Win Glory concludes with this line:
It wasn't a tragic flaw that brought Tillman down, but a tragic virtue.
If only more men possessed such virtue.

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