I just finished reading Jon Krakauer’s book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. I happened across the book while browsing in the nonfiction section of our local library. I’ve enjoyed some of the author’s other writing, so I was excited to give this one a try.
We’re just now getting to the point in history where we might be able to start to understand the “Global War on Terror” that was initiated by the United States in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We gain perspective in that transition from “current events” to “history.” So I appreciated the opportunity to read about these military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The book follows the story of a man named Pat Tillman. He grew up in California and made a name for himself as an undersized, scrappy football player. Tillman scratched and scraped his way into a college football scholarship and shined on the field. He then scratched and scraped his way into a professional contract in the National Football League (NFL). Playing with the Arizona Cardinals, he started out as a reserve role player — but again he scratched and scraped to become a star. Just as his career in the NFL was taking off, however, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took place. He decided to enlist in the Army, along with his brother Kevin. Unfortunately, Tillman never made it to the end of his commitment to the Army. He was killed in Afghanistan… but not by enemy combatants.
The book explores many angles of U.S. Military culture and American Politics. It outlines some of the dynamics by which international conflicts are managed, soldiers are recruited and developed, accidents are waiting to happen, and accountability is limited. This book provides a sobering story of institutional dysfunction and human depravity. Still, we can learn from these challenges. In fact, as Krakauer writes, we must learn from these challenges.
I recommend this book to anyone who is considering a career in the Military or in Politics. I found the reading compelling, even as a “civilian.” But it’s not a happy book.