By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press
An Army Ranger who was with Pat Tillman when he died by friendly fire said Tuesday he was told by a higher-up to conceal that information from Tillman’s family.
“I was ordered not to tell them,” U.S. Army Specialist Bryan O’Neal told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
He said he was given the order by then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman’s platoon.
Pat Tillman’s brother Kevin was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident happened, but didn’t see it. O’Neal said Bailey told him specifically not to tell Kevin Tillman that the death was friendly fire rather than heroic engagement with the enemy.
“He basically just said, ‘Do not let Kevin know, he’s probably in a bad place knowing that his brother’s dead,'” O’Neal said. He added that Bailey made clear he would “get in trouble” if he told.
O?Neal also said he did not write statements attributed to him in the recommendation for Tillman?s Silver Star which hailed him for ?engaging the enemy.? Thomas F. Gimble, acting inspector general at the Pentagon, testified today that investigators were unable to determine who altered the statement.
?Somewhere in the approval chain, it got edited,? Gimble said.
Earlier today, Kevin Tillman accused the military of ”intentional falsehoods” and ”deliberate and careful misrepresentations” in portraying the football star’s death in Afghanistan 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,” he said.
”Revealing that Pat’s death was a fratricide would have been yet another political disaster in a month of political disasters … so the truth needed to be suppressed,” said Tillman, who was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident happened three years ago but didn’t see it.
Jessica Lynch also testified in the morning. She said, “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 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.”
She said she did not know why she was depicted as a ?Rambo from West Virginia,? when in fact she was merely riding in a truck when she was injured.
The Committee asked about her capture in An Nasariyah, on March 23,2003, the mission conducted to rescue her from the Saddam Hussein General Hospital on April 1, 2003, and the accounts of her actions that were widely circulated in the days after these incidents.
In remarks prepared for the hearing, Lynch said, “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 is always more heroic than the hype,” she said.
“I hope whatever comes out of this hearing will be good news for the Tillmans,” Lynch said in her prepared statement. “This is more about them than it is about me. The Tillmans have been lied to so many times, it’s hard to tell what took place….Our stories are similar,” she added. The military “either didn’t take the time to tell the truth or find out what really happened.”
Lynch, 23, repeated that she didn’t consider her actions in Iraq heroic and she questioned military officials for misleading the public.
“I believe this is not a time for finger pointing,” she said. “It is time for the truth, the whole truth, versus misinformation and hype.”
Kevin Tillman said the Tillman family has sought for years to get at the truth about Pat Tillman’s death.
”We have now concluded that our efforts are being actively thwarted by powers that are more interested in protecting a narrative than getting at the truth and seeing justice is served,” he said.
Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, after his Army Ranger comrades were ambushed in eastern Afghanistan. Rangers in a convoy trailing Tillman’s group had just emerged from a canyon where they had been fired upon. They saw Tillman and mistakenly fired on him.
Committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., contended that the federal government invented ”sensational details and stories” about the death of Pat Tillman and the rescue of Jessica Lynch from Iraq.
”The government violated its most basic responsibility,” said Waxman.