The family of former professional football player Pat Tillman says the Army disrespected his memory by lying in its investigation of his death in Afghanistan last year.
In interviews with The Washington Post, the Army Ranger's mother and father said they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country.
"Pat had high ideals about the country; that's why he did what he did," Mary Tillman told the Post. "The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting."
Tillman, a player for the Arizona Cardinals, left the National Football League after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to join the Rangers with his brother. After a tour in Iraq, they were sent to Afghanistan in 2004 to help hunt for the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
Shortly after arriving in the mountains to fight, Tillman was killed in a barrage of gunfire from his own men, mistaken for the enemy as he got into position to defend them.
After a public memorial service, at which Tillman received the Silver Star, the Army told Tillman's family what had really happened.
The separate interviews with Tillman's parents, who are divorced, appeared on the Post's Internet site for Monday's editions.
Patrick Tillman Sr., a lawyer, told the Post he is furious about a "botched homicide investigation" and blames high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public.
"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," the father said. "They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."
"In the case of the death of Corporal Patrick Tillman, the Army made mistakes in reporting the circumstances of his death to the family," Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks told the Post. "For these, we apologize. We cannot undo those early mistakes."