Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review (OT): Where Men Win Glory (NFL, Afghanistan, Army Ranger, Iraq, infantry)

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, by Jon Krakauer (Doubleday, 2009, 383 pages, $27.95)

Is this a Book Review?

This is not so much a book review as an author review like the ones for Spencer Quinn (click here and here and here). I always say that when you find a professor you find fantastic, take every course you can from him. When I find a fantastic author, I must read his or her other books*. Sometimes I am disappointed: some writers have only one story in them, but a great story. But sometimes I strike gold!

Jon Krakauer is not an unknown author. The first book of his that I read was spellbinding: Into Thin Air – about climbing Everest and the disaster of 1996.

I have Into the Wild but, surprisingly, am not able to read it: I read an article about the wealthy Chris McCandless who gives it all up to walk into Alaska (and doesn’t walk out again). I started that movie which I could not finish but now that I have re-acquainted myself with Krakauer, I promise I can read the book. And then watch the movie.

And Missoula* was spellbinding. Krakauer writes with experience about the people of the western US and, in particular, has put Montana on the map.


But, I digress. This is about the Pat Tillman Odyssey. Tillman was an NFL player with the Phoenix Cardinals - not a fantastic football star but a plodder who became successful. First connection - Phoenix.

Next we have the Army. Second connection.

Third connection: Afghanistan. The most wonderful USO center in the entire world is the NFL-sponsored Pat Tillman Memorial Center at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Right on the runway, it is truly a home away from home. A rustic place that smells rustic and warm, you can totally relax there. Although I was there only fleetingly and during the winter, I saw the garden and patio chairs and hoped to return.

Non-Fiction that Reads like Fiction

Well-researched, Where Men Win Glory tells of the story of Pat Tillman and his character most of all - how close he was to his brothers, to the point of enlisting with one, becoming a Ranger and even, fortunately, being stationed together in the same unit.

Character and Pay-Back

Tillman was a man of character. Who else would give up a career of millions to join the military? Only someone who so strongly believed that after 911, he wanted to help. And once he enlisted (even with a college degree), he ceased giving media interviews: he just wanted to do his job and do it well. He did not want to be used as a poster boy for the Army.

Krakauer explains this all in great and fascinating detail, and also takes us to Iraq where Tillman was basically on stand-by to rescue PFC Jessica Lynch. His grasp of recent Afghan history and its various players, including Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, is nothing short of excellent.

It was on a 6-month deployment to eastern Afghanistan that Tillman was killed by friendly fire though that was not made known for quite some time.


Krakauer’s books tell of controversial people and controversial incidents - the Tillman story is no exception. The last few chapters detail too many military investigations into the incident of his death and the possible cover-up for political reasons (similar to the Jessica Lynch incident)

The major part of the book and the part that will stay with you, however, is the long explanation of how Tillman got to where he was in Afghanistan and why. He is surely a man not to be forgotten, a man of character.

One remarkable book by a remarkable author! A long book that will be a quick read.

*Under the Banner of Heaven, about Mormon polygamy (my next Krakauer read)
Three Cups of Deceit, about Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea gone wrong
Missoula, about rape and the justice system in a college town

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