WASHINGTON - Hugging the bare Afghanistan soil to escape the friendly fire of his comrades, the combat ranger heard his fire team leader's last words, "Stop shooting. I'm Pat f---ing Tillman."
Army Specialist Bryan O'Neal told a rapt congressional committee yesterday how he was later ordered not to tell the truth about the 2004 friendly-fire killing of the former NFL star.
"I wanted right off the bat to tell the family," O'Neal told the House oversight committee. After all, Kevin Tillman, the brother of the slain ranger, was also a friend and a member of their platoon, O'Neal said. Kevin had been behind the fire team and couldn't see the shooting.
O'Neal said the order to lie came from then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, then their battalion commander.
In a hearing on "Misleading Information from the Battlefield," witnesses testified about deliberate campaigns by military officials to create heroic myths about the death of Cpl. Tillman in Afghanistan and the 2003 capture and rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch in Iraq.
"My parents' home in Wirt County was under siege by the media all repeating the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills who went down fighting," said Lynch. "I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary," said Lynch.
She still suffers from bladder and bowel problems and is "required to wear a brace so I can stand and walk," she said.
The Army concocted "deliberate and careful misrepresentations" to weave a "narrative . . . intended to deceive the family but more importantly the American public," said Kevin Tillman. "Revealing that Pat's death was a fratricide would have been yet another political disaster . . . so the truth needed to be suppressed," he added. *