Tillman, Lynch Testimony. Congressional Committee Told of Tall Tales

Hearing on Tillman, Lynch Incidents: Jessica Lynch’s Opening

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

He cried as he read his prepared text.  As I watched and listened, I too felt the tears flow.  Kevin Tillman, brother of slain serviceman and famous National Football League player, Pat Tillman is among many concerned citizens and soldiers speaking in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today, April 24, 2007.  Army Private, Jessica Lynch expresses her bewilderment.  Miss Lynch inquired as she referred to her esteemed prominence. She stated, “However, 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.”  The Committee conferred and listened to the testimony.

Pat Tillman, a noble man took to the battlefields to protect his country.  He left behind a lucrative career, fame, and inevitable fortune.  Believing the President, we must protect our shores, Tillman enlisted in the United States Army in 2002.  His life was taken in April 2004.  Allied forces shot the soldier.  However, that was not the story initially told.  His family and an anxious media received misinformation, propaganda, and party line rhetoric before the real facts were shared.  Perhaps, had their not been witnesses, we, the people would never know what truly occurred.

Jessica Lynch also shared her saga on this day.  Lynch, an Army private in 2003, was badly injured when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq.  Miss Lynch was hospitalized in an Iraqi infirmary.  Anon, American forces rescued her.  The tale of her ambush was told to citizens at home.  However, the scenario as presented to the American public was not what occurred. 

The anecdote was changed so that this young, bright, beautiful soldier would be among the many American heroines.  Naturally, when Americans are told to “Stay the course,” they must have infinite reason to believe the direction we are going in is correct.  After all, we must “move forward.”  If our countrymen do not “support the troops,” pullout will be inevitable.  At least, that is what this Administration believes.

In truth we are not “moving forward,” America is not safer, and the stories the public hears are contrived. 

Years have passed.  America realizes this war never was what as described.  Thus, a House Committee was formed to investigate the reasons, the rationale, and the reality of misinformation.  We now know that much of what is released by the United States Department of Defense is not factual.  Military officers tell families and the media tales that rarely resemble the truth.  The actual circumstances that cause death or injury to our troops are frequently deplorable.  Yet, yarns are spun, and every event is envisioned as heroic.

Americans servicemen frequently kill their fellow soldiers.  Yet, such actions are mentioned only is a hush.  Friendly fire is embarrassing; nevertheless, common.  Sweet young soldiers are victims of circumstances, and these are not glorious.  Nor is there a cause for celebration.  On this day, we hear some specifics.

The brother of Pat Tillman, the U.S. football star killed in Afghanistan in 2004, accused the military Tuesday of “intentional falsehoods” and “deliberate and careful misrepresentations” in portraying Tillman’s death as the result of heroic engagement with the enemy instead of friendly fire.

“We believe this narrative was intended to deceive the family, but more importantly the American public,” Kevin Tillman told a hearing of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. “Pat’s death was clearly the result of fratricide.”

“Revealing that Pat’s death was a fratricide would have been yet another political disaster in a month of political disasters,” Tillman said, “so the truth needed to be suppressed.”

In fact, it was.  Kevin Tillman was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident occurred.  This brave soldier was unable to see what happened.  Initially, he trusted; however, it was not long before he learned so much of what was said was a lie.

Soon after Kevin Tillman shared his sorrow, <>Jessica Lynch testified before the Committee.  She approached the table, looking shy and subdued.  Yet, when she spoke this woman was powerful.

Still hampered by her injuries, Lynch walked slowly to the witness table and took a seat alongside Tillman’s family members.

“The bottom line is, the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don’t need to be told elaborate tales,” said Lynch, who was an army private at the time of her capture. . . .

Lynch said she could not know why she had been depicted as a “Rambo from West Virginia,” when in fact she had been riding in a truck, not fighting, when she was wounded.

Dr. Gene Bolles, a doctor who treated Lynch at a hospital in Germany after she was rescued, told the hearing that her injuries, while extensive, were not the result of bullet wounds, as first described.

Jessica Lynch lamented, “I’m confused why they lied.” Shortly after Miss Lynch spoke, the mother of Pat and Kevin Tillman addressed the Representatives.

Pat Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, told the committee that family members had been “absolutely appalled” when they realized the extent to which they had been misled.

This distressed parent knew that earlier inquiries did no good.

Last month the military concluded in a pair of reports that nine high-ranking army officers, including four generals, had made critical errors in reporting Tillman’s death but that there had been no criminal wrongdoing in his shooting.

With disgust in her voice and distress in her face, the morning mother stated . . .

Mary Tillman said she found it “horrific” that investigators had found no violations of rules of engagement.

The Committee Chairman, Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, knew the small group seated in front of him was correct and credible.  The Congressman expressed his anguish, stating the government invented “sensational details and stories” about the shocking shooting that took Pat Tillman’s life and the 2003 rescue of Jessica Lynch. 

These two soldiers were possibly the most prominent victims of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  Their service was glorified, and indeed, they did serve their country well.  However, distortions and embellishments are cause for concern.  The Congressman continued.

“The government had violated its most basic responsibility,” Waxman said.

Lawmakers also planned to press the Pentagon with questions still hovering over Tillman’s shooting, including whether a Predator drone had been flying overhead when Tillman was killed and whether it had videotaped the incident. The military says no such videotape exists.

Nevertheless, there is ample reason to believe that what the military says and what is or was are not the same.  An expectant public awaits action.  They want no more war and said so with their votes in the 2006 elections.  Americans crave the truth.  This Administration and the Department of Defense may not know what that is.  Lives are destroyed, evidence too. Meanwhile, the wars continue.

Please review the testimony of Jessica Lynch.  Once located, I will offer the transcript of Kevin Tillman’s testimony.

Testimony of Jessica Lynch

Chairman Waxman, and distinguished members of the committee, it is an honor to be with you today and I am grateful to have this opportunity. 

I have been asked here today to address “misinformation from the battlefield.” Quite frankly, it is something that I have been doing since I returned from Iraq. However, I want to note for the record, I am not politically motivated in my appearance here today. I lived the war in Iraq. Today I have family and friends still serving in Iraq. My support for our troops is unwavering. 

I believe this is not a time for finger pointing. It is time for the truth, the whole truth, versus misinformation and hype.

Because of the misinformation, people try to discount the realities of my story, including me as part of the hype. Nothing could be further from the truth.  My experiences have caused a personal struggle of sorts for me.  I was given opportunities not extended to my fellow soldiers – and embraced those opportunities set the record straight. It is something I have done since 2003 and something I imagine I will have to do for the rest of my life.  I have answered criticisms for being paid to tell my story.  Quite frankly, the injuries I have will last a lifetime and I had a story tell, a story that needed to be told so people would know the truth. 

I want to take a minute to remind the committee of my true story. I was a soldier. 

In July 2001, I enlisted in the Army with my brother. We had different reasons as to why we joined but we both wanted to serve our country.  I loved my time in the Army and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served this nation during a time of crisis. 

In 2003, I received word that my unit had been deployed. I was part of a 100-mile long convoy going to Bagdad to support the Marines. I drove the 5-ton water buffalo truck. Our unit drove the heaviest vehicles. The sand was thick — our vehicles just sank. It would take us hours to travel the shortest distance.  We decided to divide our convoy so the lighter vehicles could reach our target.

But then came the city of An Nasiryah and a day I will never forget.  The truck I was driving broke down.  I was picked up by my roommate and best friend, Lori Piestewa who was driving our First Sergeant Robert Dowdy. We also picked up two other soldiers from a different unit to get them out of harms way. 

As we drove through An Nasiryah, trying to get turned around to try to leave the city, the signs of hostility were increasing with people with weapons on rooftops and the street watching our entire group. 

The vehicle I was riding in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and slammed into the back of another truck in the convoy. Three people in the vehicle were killed upon impact. Lori and I were taken to a hospital where she later died and I was held for nine days.  In all eleven soldiers died that day, six others from the unit, plus two others were taken prisoner. 

Following the ambush, my injuries were extensive. When I awoke in the Iraqi hospital, I was not able to move or feel anything below my waist. I suffered a six-inch gash in my head. My fourth and fifth lumbars were overlapping causing pressure on my spine. My right humerus bone was broken. My right foot was crushed. My left femur was shattered. The Iraqis in the hospital tried to help me by removing the bone and replacing it with a metal rod. The rod they used was a model from the 1940s for a man and was too long. Following my rescue, the doctors in Landstuhl, Germany found in a physical exam that I had been sexually assaulted. Today, I continue to deal with bladder, bowel, and kidney problems as a result of my injuries. My left leg still has no feeling from the knee down and I am required to wear a brace so that I can stand and walk. 

When I awoke, I did not know where I was. I could not move, or fight or call for help. The nurses at the hospital tried to soothe me and tried unsuccessfully at one point to return me to American

Then on April 1, while various units created diversions around Nasiryah, a group came to the hospital to rescue me. I could hear them speaking in English but I was still very afraid. Then a soldier came into my room, he tore the American flag from his uniform and pressed into my hand and he told me, “We’re American soldiers and we’re here to take you home.”  As I held his hand, I told him, “yes, I am an American soldier too.” 

When I remember those difficult days, I remember the fear. I remember the strength. I remember the hand of a fellow American soldier reassuring me that I was ok now. 

At the same time, tales of great heroism were being told. My parent’s home in Wirt County was under siege of the media all repeating the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills who went down fighting. 

It was not true. 

I have repeatedly said, when asked, that if the stories about me helped inspire our troops and rally a nation, then perhaps there was some good. However, 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.  People like Lori Piestewa and First Sergeant Dowdy who picked up fellow soldiers in harms way.  Or people like Patrick Miller and Sergeant Donald Walters who actually fought until the very end. 

The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals for heroes and they don’t need to be told elaborate tales. 

My hero is my brother Greg who continues to serve this country today. My hero is my friend Lori who died in Iraq but set an example for a generation of Hopi and Native American women and little girls everywhere about the important contributions just one soldier can make in the fight for freedom. My hero is every American who says, my country needs me and answers the call to fight. 

I had the good fortune and opportunity to come home and I told the truth. Many other soldiers, like Pat Tillman, do not have the opportunity. 

The truth of war is not always easy to hear but it always more heroic than the hype. 

  • Saving Private Lynch story ‘flawed’, By John Kampfner.  BBC News. May 15, 2003
  • Pat Tillman. Wikipedia.
  • Ex-NFL star Tillman makes `ultimate sacrifice’.  MSNBC News. April 26 2004
  • Jessica Lynch  Wikipedia.
  • The truth about Jessica. Guardian Unlimited. May 15, 2003
  • Tillman Tale “Pure Fiction”: Brother  CBS News.  April 24, 2007
  • Pat Tillman’s family accuses U.S. military of lying. Associated Press. New York Times. International Herald Tribune. April 24, 2007
  • “President Outlines Strategy for Victory in Iraq. Delivered at United States Naval Academy.  Office of the Press Secretary. November 30, 2005