Starting off the 2011-2012 year guns blazin’, the senior Honors English Seminar class recently finished the book Where Men Win Glory by the author Jon Krakauer. The book details the life of Pat Tillman, an ex-NFL Arizona Cardinal, who traded a life of fame and fortune to become an Army Ranger. Pat was inspired to join the military following the events of 9/11 and felt that doing so was his duty to his country, considering football “insignificant” in comparison to the war on terror.
Pat was deployed twice, first to Iraq and then to Afghanistan in early 2004. Pat met his death on the battlefield, shot by his own countryman in an act of friendly-fire, which the government tried to cover-up in an effort to win support for the American war effort. It was reported to the public that Pat had died by the hands of the Taliban.
“I really liked the book and it taught me a lot more than I thought it would. Even though I think that Krakauer was biased, he revealed some good points about the Army that I would not have known without reading the book,” says Nick Ertukuner. Indeed, there’s much to our government and military that the public has no inkling of knowledge, especially all the behind the scenes decisions made every day. “I would say it was eye-opening to see what kind of hypocrisies and cover-ups happen in the military.” –Brendan O’Brien
To supplement the reading experience, the class held a two-day seminar discussion to bounce questions about the book off each other. Prior to discussion though, several students participated in external reading of newspapers and journals that offered their own opinions on the death of Pat and how the government dealt with it.
Extensive video coverage of the court cases were found on YouTube as well. During the seminar, possibly the most discussed topics were the lack of leadership displayed by the military authorities and the strange connection between Pat Tillman and Odysseus from the poet Homer’s The Odyssey. Both characters possessed traits of Aristotle’s tragic hero.
Delving into the Tillman cover-up did not end there. Assistant Principal Mr. Fred Donahue was invited to spend a day with the class to share his thoughts as well as his experience of the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Marty Murad remarked that “It was so interesting to hear from Mr. Donahue, first-hand, about the ‘fog of war’ issue that disrupts all logistics on the battlefield, a subject that is rarely covered by the media.”
Mr. Donahue questioned the practices of the military in terms of media release and the controversial aspect of military integrity. “You always hear about West Point drilling integrity, integrity, and integrity into their students, but what happens when school is over? The Army does what suits the Army.” How interesting. Mr. Donahue additionally questioned the title of the book deeming “Glory” an ill-suited phrase. After all, there’s nothing glorious in a death by friendly fire.
To end the discussion on Pat Tillman, each member of the seminar composed a literary analysis of the odyssey and they were rewarded with a visit from Commanding General James Williams of the Marines. Recently retired, General William’s wife used to teach at the Prep. As a friend of our instructor Ms. Sheryl Row, General Williams agreed to sit for a double class period discussion with the class. It turned into more of a lecture format. “Asking him (General Williams) questions became the least of my worries; all I wanted to do was hear him talk and soak up all the information I could,” said Omeed Azmoudeh. I would agree as Gen. Williams extensively knew the culture and history of that area of the world. The way he conceptualized war and put war into a larger time concept simply intrigued every mind in the room. “The general provided a more personal side of war; he and Mr. Donahue tied the novel together well,” says Daniel Williamson.