After the Sept. 11 attacks, football star Pat Tillman left a multimillion-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers, wanting to go fight Al-Qaeda. When the former NFL safety was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004, Army officials told his family he died in an enemy ambush. Five weeks later, after Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, and after Army officials at a nationally televised memorial had told a story of him charging up a hill in pursuit of enemy insurgents, the Army reported that, in fact, Tillman had been shot three times in the head by “friendly fire.”

Since discovering that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, his family, led by his mother, Mary, and his brother, Kevin, who served with him in the Army, has been trying to find who was responsible for covering up what happened in Pat’s death. After seven investigations, two Congressional hearings, and support from politicians ranging from Democratic California Rep. Mike Honda to Republican presidential candidate John McCain to retired general Wesley Clark, Mary Tillman says no one has been held accountable.

Now, with Narda Zacchino, former deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, she has written a book about Pat’s life and her struggle to find out the truth about his death. The title is Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman. AlterNet writer Emily Wilson sat down with her recently in San Francisco to talk about the book.

Emily Wilson: In the book you have a lot of stories about Pat as a toddler, a kid and a teenager. Why did you choose to include those?

Mary Tillman: I included the stories about Pat growing up because I felt that for the reader to care about what happened to him, they had to have a little bit of an understanding about who he was. I felt the media coverage sort of turned him into a caricature. I wanted to present him as a human being.

Emily Wilson: In four years, you have had seven investigations and two Congressional hearings. What gives you the will to keep going with this?

Mary Tillman: I think there is so much that is disturbing in the documents, the fact that they lied to us to begin with — and you know, when you are lied to and you see discrepancies, it just makes you more concerned and confused and outraged. And at every turn we just kept finding new pieces of information that made it seem there was huge deception and cover-up. So I feel it’s very important to find out who’s accountable for the cover-up.

At this point I think most of the evidence is gone. It’s been four years, and these soldiers (the ones who shot Tillman) are young, they were in a stress situation. I think it’s horrific they were so negligent, but I think if there’s some kind of consequence, it should have happened early on. I think putting them through that at this point — I don’t think Pat would have wanted that. But for these men in positions of authority and power to willfully deceive the public and cover up and use a young man for propaganda is outrageous, and I think they should be held accountable.

Emily Wilson: What has been the hardest thing about dealing with the Army?

Mary Tillman: I think the hardest thing is the officers we’ve been dealing with. They’re very polished, they’re very polite, they’re very respectful. I mean their outward behavior is very respectful, but they’re clearly lying. And it took us awhile to realize that this honest, earnest facade was just that; a facade. So it’s been very hard to realize that these people who seem so genuine are not.

Emily Wilson: On “60 Minutes,” Katie Couric asked the new secretary of the Army, Pete Geren: Who altered eyewitness statements to say Pat was killed by the enemy? He says this question can’t be completely answered. What is your response to that?

Mary Tillman: In the Congressional hearing, they kept saying they couldn’t know who falsified the Silver Star narrative, that they couldn’t find out who was responsible for the cover-up. It’s impossible, they say, to find this information out. And I just don’t really believe that. I think there’s a way. I just think they just don’t want to trace it because it would lead to people they don’t want uncovered.

Emily Wilson: You mention all the inconsistencies you have been told over the past four years. What were some of the most glaring?

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