I loved two thirds of Jon Krakauer’s book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. However fascinating some of the material was to me, I didn’t very much in the book to be particularly illuminating. But Tillman himself was a fascinating individual for me to read about. He embodied many of the traits that I admire and try to cultivate in myself: self reliance, strength, mental toughness, and independent free thinking.
Tillman was a man who walked away from an NFL contract to enlist in the Rangers after 9/11. He wanted to do something more meaningful than play football while others went to war. After reading the book I agreed with another reviewer’s assessment that Pat hated taking the easy way out. He lived in accordance with his passion and instincts, and his instincts told him to enlist.
He was later killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, long after becoming disillusioned by the War on Terror.
The first part of the book was fascinating for several reasons. It provides background on the regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and gives a crash course in the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan–and the CIA’s involvement with the formation of the Taliban–and how it helped produce the political climate that American soldiers overseas find themselves in today.
As someone who has not traveled much, a history buff, and a normal man fascinated with the military life, the book’s opening was great.
Part two continues the look at the region while inter-cutting scenes of Pat’s life. I was very interested to see what the childhood of a man who would one day walk away from millions of dollars on matters of principle looked like. It wasn’t that remarkable–he had good parents who preached the values that he believed in, just like most kids are shaped by their own parents.
The escalation of the war culminates in 9/11 and Pat’s decision to leave his lucrative career to enlist. At this point we are already aware of the circumstances surrounding Tillman’s death, which made the scenes of his training, of his agony over the effect his leaving was having on his new wife, and his second-guessing all the more poignant.
But once he actually dies, the rest of the book felt rushed and polemic to me. Without spoiling too much, I will say that in the aftermath, the administration and the military brass make some decisions that seem disgusting, unethical, incompetent, and more. It certainly appears that the circumstances of Tillman’s death were covered up.
The remainder of the book details his mother’s struggle to get at the truth, but it felt more to me like an airing of Krakauer’s grievances against the Bush presidency. I share many of those grievances, but the book no longer felt like it was about Pat Tillman.
I don’t know, maybe I’m making too much of that. I just finished the book and might have different opinions if I were to read it a year from now.
Strength training for body and mind