"NFLplayer PatTillman joined U.S. Army in 2002. He was killed in action 2004. He fought 4our country/freedom. #StandForOurAnthem #BoycottNFL," wrote @jayMAGA45.
The intent of the president's retweet was clear: Trump was co-signing a suggestion that Tillman was a true patriot, unlike those who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem, and that those protests dishonor his legacy.
It's easy to understand why Tillman would make an attractive figure to Trump and his base. His Army photo reflects an image of a certain type of all-American hero: chiseled jaw, broad shoulders, white skin. But simply looking at Tillman's photo and the superficial facts of his tale is to miss everything important about his life, his death, and what came after. Tillman's is indeed an all-American story, it's just not the kind that Trump and his supporters want it to be.
Few episodes of the post-9/11 era have called down more disgrace upon the military than its handling of Tillman's death and its treatment of his family in their search for answers. The most comprehensive documentation of those events can be found in three accounts: two books, "Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman," written by Tillman's mother, Mary, and "Where Men Win Glory," by Jon Krakauer; as well as a 2006 story by Gary Smith for Sports Illustrated. Together, they offer an invaluable corrective to the simplistic depictions of Tillman, revealing a complex person and charting the ways in which officials at the highest levels of U.S. government sought to capitalize off his life and death.