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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Pat Tillman's Parents
Aired August 16, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, the Pat Tillman story, the former NFL star-turned-Army ranger killed in Afghanistan and hailed as a hero, battling America's enemies -- all lies, deception and conspiracy cooked up by our own government to bury the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't recall precisely how I learned that he was killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: His parents are here together for the first time to tell us how they fought to uncover what really happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S BROTHER: Yes, I'm not just going to sit up here and break down on you. But thank you for coming. Pat's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) champion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: How many others have died like this? How many families have been lied to about their sons and husbands and wives and daughters in the military?
It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Good evening. It's good to be back.
A word about tomorrow night's show: Dr. Laura will be here for an exclusive interview regarding her controversial remarks last week.
Now on to tonight. Mary Tillman, known as Danny, is Pat Tillman's mother, author of the book, "Boots on the Ground by Dusk." She joins us from Mountain View, California.
Patrick Tillman, Sr. is Pat Tillman's father. He's with us here in Los Angeles. "The Tillman Story," a compelling new documentary about the death of Pat Tillman in 2004 and the controversy that followed it opens this week. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: The top secret internal communique, known as a P4 memo sent just seven days after Pat's death and a full month before the family learned of the fratricide.
MARY TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S MOTHER: The P4 memo states they must warn the president about this because they'll be giving speeches and that they shouldn't be embarrassed if -- if -- the circumstances of Pat's death become public.
NARRATOR: The P4 memo clearly showed that while America was being told the valorous account of Pat's death, the entire chain of command not only knew it was a lie, but were urgently concerned about the implications should the truths get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's an extraordinary documentary and it will open around the country the end of this week.
Mary Tillman's in Mountain View, California, Patrick Tillman is here. They are divorce but they are quite friendly, and they share a common tragedy: the death of their son.
That's been more than six years, Mary, since he was killed. Do you -- do you know the whole truth?
M. TILLMAN: No, we don't know the whole truth. I mean, we are asked that question frequently. There's probably three scenarios that we could come up with in terms of what may have happened to him, but as Pat's father has said in the past, they never did a criminal investigation after Pat was killed. So, without that proper criminal investigation, they destroyed evidence, which is long gone. There really is no way for us to know exactly what happened to him.
KING: Well, it's -- how do you -- you're an attorney, Pat?
PATRICK TILLMAN, SR., PAT TILLMAN'S FATHER: I am.
KING: An attorney's mind would say, I want to know -- I want to get answers here. Why can't you get answers?
P. TILLMAN: Well, because I don't have the authority to make them answer the questions. The questions we want answered need to be answered through a prosecution. We have asked and asked and asked. We have five investigations that are not -- they are not appropriate responses. Nobody was put in charge of doing a proper investigation and somebody that didn't have an agenda.
KING: All right. Here's what the Army said -- we have a statement and the Army has given us a statement. By the way, we attempted to contact also Donald Rumsfeld, who was secretary of defense at this time, and General McChrystal -- the retired general who just left. They both declined.
But here's what the Army said: "Pat Tillman died going to the aid of his fellow Rangers. He epitomized the Army values of loyalty, duty and selfless service. As an Army, we failed in our duty to the memory of a fallen soldier and to his family. The failures of a few brought discredit to the Army and compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family. The Army truly regrets the pain and suffering endured by the Tillman family as a result of this tragic, friendly fire accident and the shortfalls in reporting accurate information to them in the days and weeks after Pat's death."
Mary, why shouldn't that put it away?
M. TILLMAN: Well, because they weren't shortfalls. They weren't missteps and they weren't errors. They were deliberate attempts to cover up what happened in order for them to use Pat's death for propaganda purposes at a time during the war in 2004 when, you know, Abu Ghraib Prison scandal was breaking, you know, Fallujah, you know, was falling apart. I mean, it was -- it was a terrible time for the military and for that administration, and Pat's death was an opportunity for them.
In fact there is a line in -- it's in the book. It was in the documents that I -- that we were given. One of the investigative generals asked someone in the chain of command who is clearly, you know, at a higher rank than the investigative officer, because he kept calling him "sir" and the name was redacted, but the general said, "Well, what was kind of the atmosphere when Pat was killed?" And he said, "Well, it was like here's this steak dinner, but we are giving it to you on a garbage can cover. You've got it, you work it."
So, in other words, they thought that Pat's death was a positive thing for them because they could use it for propaganda. Unfortunately, it was a fratricide. So, they had to spin it.
KING: Why though, Patrick, isn't this statement enough to say, OK, he was killed by friendly fire, they made some mistakes, some people did it, they are fully admitting it now? What do -- what do you want?
P. TILLMAN: It is not mistakes of a few -- of a few. It is a core -- it was choreographed. And to this day, they have not put sufficient facts on the table for me to know what happened to my son. There -- I have evidence that will show that this may not have been simply a friendly fire incident.
KING: What else would it have been?
P. TILLMAN: Well, there's -- I don't like jumping over a falsified homicide investigation and then guessing at what happened to my son.
KING: You think someone might have, on his own side, deliberately killed him? P. TILLMAN: I haven't eliminated it.
P. TILLMAN: There is strong evidence of two shooters, not one. There's a lot of other evidence in there that would take quite a while to go through. But the big deal here is: this is not a few mistakes that were made, or -- as they say -- the mistakes of a few. This is -- this was a choreographed event and including -- and you just read the P4 -- including General McChrystal.
Well, when you jump over a homicide investigation that's been falsified and then you want to debate what happened to my son, I find that difficult. They don't mind doing it because they just wonder -- well, this was friendly fire, this was an accident. But the scenario that they painted for us several times is just ridiculous. And it is still their scenario. It is still plainly an accident.
KING: The military even tried to influence the tone of Pat's funeral. That's ahead. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Army did not do their -- do their duty here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Badly handled and errors were made.
BRYAN O'NEAL, U.S. ARMY: I was ordered not to tell them what happened, sir.
KEVIN TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S BROTHER: The fact that the Army, and what appears to be others, attempted to hijack his virtue and his legacy is simply horrific. The least this country can do for him in return is to uncover who is responsible for his death, who lied and covered it up and who instigated those lies and benefited from them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "The Tillman Story" opens this week. We are talking with Mary Tillman and Patrick Tillman, the late Patrick Tillman's parents.
Mary, did you become suspicious or did something happen to turn your wavelengths on to think about this, other than the fact that my son was killed as a hero?
M. TILLMAN: Well, you know, pat was killed on April 22nd. On Memorial Day weekend, we were notified that he was actually killed by friendly fire. And as we were informed by a colonel that came to our home and he gave us a scenario of what happened. And then a week later, we went up to Washington, to Fort Lewis, to get an official briefing on what happened.
And in a week's time, and a lot of the facts changed. And the facts sounded very suspicious and the family was, you know, very unsatisfied. And in a period of a few months, we started getting autopsies, field hospital reports, things just didn't add up.
And we started questioning everything. And we started pushing to have you know, further investigations. And with each investigation, we were just faced with more questions.
So, it's been a six-year process.
KING: Patrick, the person who came to tell you it was friendly fire, why did they do that, you think?
P. TILLMAN: Well --
KING: Why did they keep the story going?
P. TILLMAN: Well, they had no choice in the matter, I don't think they let it -- I don't think they brought it to our -- the family's attention on purpose. Somebody else found out about it, though there were 25, 30 soldiers over there. It was going to get out.
KING: Were you shocked?
P. TILMANN: Yes. Yes, I was shocked. I got a phone call before this lieutenant colonel came down. I was at a restaurant and I was told over the phone that this is what happened. And, so, I was dealing with that. And, I think --
M. TILLMAN: Could I -- could I interrupt for just a second?
KING: Go ahead, Mary.
M. TILLMAN: Yes, I'm sorry, I don't mean interrupt you, Pat. But one of the reasons they had to tell us is because the medical examiner was suspicious right away. He was informed that Pat was killed in an ambush by the enemy and when he saw pat's wounds, he knew that an AK-47 could not cause wounds like that. And so, that -- and he asked that there be a criminal investigation and the adjutant general said, no, we're satisfied with the information we have and she refused to push for a criminal investigation.
So, that is one of the main reasons they were forced to tell us.
KING: We have another clip from "The Tillman Story." It opens this Friday. This one involves the military's efforts to influence the tone of Pat's funeral. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: The casualty assistance officers were there to compel Marie to sign off on a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
MARIE TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S WIDOW: They were sort of pushing for a military funeral, which was not what his wishes were. NARRATOR: During basic training, Pat had a premonition that if he died, he might be used as a public relations stunt. So, he had smuggled copy of his final wishes home to Marie.
MARIE TILLMAN: I really had to kind of push back on them. They were just sort of proceeding as if this was the way things were going to happen, probably thinking that, you know, I was so grief-stricken that I wouldn't -- that I would just go along with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Pat, your son, the height of his career, quits the National Football League. He's making pretty good -- very good money to volunteer to serve and he doesn't want to be honored at a military funeral if he is killed? Why?
P. TILLMAN: I didn't get an explanation from him. I assumed --
KING: Why do you think? You know him better.
P. TILLMAN: He was not it in it for the P.R. He was not in it for the splash. He wanted to defend this country. I mean, after 9/11, I assume he was moved by that. He dropped everything -- him and Kevin -- and they joined up. And they --
KING: His brother, too, right?
P. TILLMAN: Both, yes. They both -- they signed up at the same time. They declared right up front, "We will be Rangers." That's what they wanted to be and that's what they were.
There's no foregone conclusion, but they both earned it. And they went out to fight. They didn't go out to do P.R. work for the military. They wanted to represent their country.
KING: Mary, did it shock you when your sons did that?
M. TILLMAN: Yes, in some respects. But, you know, I also knew that they were, you know, disturbed by what happened on September 11th. And I know that Pat felt like -- he had express it that, you know, football was pretty insignificant considering what was going on in the world. So, on one hand, I wasn't shocked. But, you know, I was disturbed by it because I didn't trust the president at the helm at the time, to be honest.
KING: How is his -- how is this brother doing, Patrick?
P. TILLMAN: Both of them are doing fine.
KING: Younger one too, right?
P. TILLMAN: Yes. Yes, Kevin and there's Richard. Richard's getting married this Friday and Kevin has a daughter.
KING: Did Kevin leave the Rangers after Pat was killed?
P. TILLMAN: Eventually, but he finished his enlistment. He had a three-year enlistment. He finished it.
KING: Where was he when Pat was killed?
P. TILLMAN: Probably about a quarter mile away.
KING: They put them together? I thought they didn't do that with brothers?
P. TILLMAN: I heard that is the rule, but I'm not too sure if they made the exception at their request or -- I'm not real comfortable with how it happened. I think they insisted on running together and they allowed it.
KING: And we will be back with more -- this sad, incredible tale. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD B. MYERS, FMR. CHMN. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: This is the responsibility of the United States Army, not of the Office of the Chairman.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I presumed that the information flowed in Washington through Army channels. As I might have expected, those assumptions were obviously incorrect.
RUMSFELD: I don't believe there's an individual at this table who I know well and observed at close quarters in very difficult situations who had any role in a cover-up on this matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In April of 2005, Pat Tillman, Sr. -- who's with us here -- sent a strongly worded letter to Brigadier General Gary Jones, who was leading the Army's investigation into Pat's death.
Here's another clip from "The Tillman Story."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P. TILLMAN: I just went through and blew out just about everything they considered to be a fact, and explained to them why that is a lie, and concluded by telling them that I have little regard for them. I just wanted to tell somebody off.
NARRATOR: Unbeknownst to Pat Sr., the Army considered the wording of his letter to be a formal accusation of criminal misconduct. This automatically initiated a new investigation by the inspector general's office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He got the Silver Star, Pat, right?
P. TILLMAN: He did.
KING: You have that medal, right?
P. TILLMAN: I do. Yes. I have one. Danny has one. Marie has one.
KING: So, you kept those?
P. TILLMAN: Oh, yes, I'm not giving that back.
KING: Are you -- what do you think of your government, Mary? What do you think of Rumsfeld and McChrystal and the rest? What are your thoughts about this? Why?
M. TILLMAN: Well, I don't think they are very honorable people. I know they were lying. I mean, and I think that -- you know, like, you know, Pat and I are talking about, you know, we feel that there could have been something else that happened to Pat but -- I mean, we can't prove it. Every bit of evidence has been destroyed.
Unless someone were to come forward and tell us new information, there isn't much we can do. But through the congressional hearing, the first congressional hearing, we do know that there was indeed a cover-up, the oversight committee deemed that there was. But people dropped the ball -- Congress dropped the ball when it came time to find out who was actually accountable.
Rumsfeld, Abizaid, Myers and Brown collectively said, "I don't know, I don't recall, I don't remember" about 82 times and no one on that panel pressed them. No one did their research. Neither faction of that committee.
I mean, there were a few very brave and courageous people on that panel, but for the most part, they dropped the ball completely. And I think what's sad about it and that one of the main purposes for this documentary and one of the reasons that I wanted to, you know, to republish the book that I wrote is because this is not an isolated incident. Pat is not alone. There are many soldiers who have died in these wars and the families are lied to, and it's outrageous.
KING: Friendly fire is common in all wars, though, isn't it, Patrick? It goes back to every war before. There's going to have friendly fire when you're out in a place and people and guns are going off?
P. TILLMAN: They have books on it going back to the Civil War that I'm familiar with. Yes. And they have books going back to the Civil War that I'm familiar with that say you do not split the troops because it is very dangerous.
But, you know, the point that we were trying to make -- and friendly fire does occur -- maybe it was an accident, probably was an accident. But the setting that we were handed was just unbearable. It was -- it was not even tethered to a fact. It was so manufactured that made it tough to tolerate and that's why we kept pushing on here.
And no one has been held accountable about this matter.
KING: Two of the soldiers who served with Pat will join us -- right after this.
KING: Joining us are: Russell Baer -- he served in Pat Tillman's Army Ranger platoon. He accompanied Pat's body back to the United States.
And Staff Sergeant Bryan O'Neal -- he was at Pat Tillman's side when Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, April 22nd, 2004. And both are featured in this extraordinary documentary, which will be released to the public on Friday.
You're still in service, Sergeant O'Neal? Are you allowed to talk about this?
STAFF SGT. BRYAN O'NEAL, U.S. AMRY: Well, the Army is not trying to hide anything more. So, I'm definitely allowed to talk about a lot of specifics. Now, anything that would be above my level, it's not something that I actually have the knowledge to talk about. So --
KING: Where were you at the moment Pat was killed?
O'NEAL: I was a few feet away from him, maybe five at tops, when he was killed.
KING: What were you -- you were in a vehicle, right?
O'NEAL: Well, we started off the mission in a vehicle. We basically split our platoon into two serials, me and Pat and Russell were in the first serial and the rest of -- you know, some of the other members of the platoon were in the second serial. We had made it you there this canyon just fine and while the second serial was falling behind us is when they got engaged.
At that point, you know, Pat and myself dismounted our vehicles and went up to assault the enemy force that was engaging our friends.
KING: Did you see him shot?
O'NEAL: Did I see Pat shot? No, I did not. He was -- he was behind me. I remember hearing his voice and thinking that he was hurt, obviously, not at the point killed because he was still speaking. But --
KING: Were you friends?
O'NEAL: Pat and I, we had a professional friendship, I would say. Outside of work, we didn't really associate much. But that kind of thing is kind of looked down upon in the military with, you know, superiors hanging without their subordinates. So -- but at work, definitely. KING: Russell, where were you when Pat was killed?
RUSSELL BAER, SERVED WITH PAT TILLMAN: I was about 30 feet behind Pat when he was killed.
KING: You were behind him. Did you see him killed?
BAER: I didn't see him. He was in the prone position. I saw him stand up after the initial wave of fire and then when our guys ended up shooting back at us again, he got down, that was the last time I saw him.
KING: And someone else was killed, too, right?
BAER: Right, an Afghani force fire was with us. He was killed and also our P.L. and our RTO was shot during the ambush.
KING: You accompanied the body back -- that was a volunteer?
BAER: I did.
KING: Did you suspect anything?
BAER: I mean, I did.
KING: You did?
BAER: You know, I was on the ridge line with Pat and O'Neal and we -- you know, blatantly saw our men firing at us. So, you know, it was a 99 percent chance that our guys had killed him. You know, at the point coming home, you know, the higher ups had asked me, you know, what I knew. And given what I knew, they said, no, keep your mouth shut; you know, we don't know all the bits and pieces of the story. We are not sure what his brother's involvement might be in it. So just keep your mouth shut.
KING: How did you react to that?
BAER: Um, I was pretty much still in shock during that time. You know, really -- just the situation, it really was unnerving, just having your own guys shoot at you. I felt betrayed. I felt afraid for Kevin. I really was confused. I didn't really have a lot of answers myself.
KING: Did you think they were shooting at you, Bryan?
O'NEAL: Oh, I knew it from the get-go, Larry.
KING: Why were they shooting at you? Why were your own people shooting at you?
O'NEAL: You know, Larry, that is something I think about quite frequently. They weren't very far away. I could positively identify them.
KING: They were Rangers too? O'NEAL: Oh, yes.
KING: Rangers shooting at Rangers?
O'NEAL: Exactly. And that's one of the reasons why I expected I was going to be actually killed, because I was so confident in their ability to engage that I was actually counting down to my death.
KING: Did you shoot back?
O'NEAL: No. I -- specifically because I knew that if I fired back, it would drew more fire. And I just knew they were my brothers. So I knew that they were confused and I didn't -- I didn't want anymore trouble to come to them.
KING: There is an obvious here, Russell. Assuming that's correct, why were they shooting?
BAER: You know, I -- I can mirror O'Neal's, you know -- his statement. You know, I really do believe that there is a serious lack of control. A lot of the guys that were shooting at us were young Rangers and it was their first --
BAER: Not just scared, but lack of control, meaning there were people above them on the ground that were in charge of controlling their fires. And I think there was a grave lack of control.
KING: Did you ever talk to them?
BAER: No, I did not.
KING: Why not?
BAER: I never had any opportunity to.
KING: Never saw them again?
KING: Why didn't you talk to him?
O'NEAL: I addressed him. Once we returned back to Salerno in Afghanistan, we had a platoon meeting where we all got together. We sat down and we discussed what happened and what went wrong. And even after that you know, for the months leading up to some of them who ended up leaving the, you know, Ranger regiment, I would see them on a daily basis and discuss with them.
KING: What did they say?
O'NEAL: I know one of them, in particular, his life basically was destroyed from this. He was constantly depressed. He was hurt on the inside. But the others didn't seem to show any remorse or feel that they had done anything wrong. KING: You think the person who killed Pat knew he killed him?
O'NEAL: I think --
KING: Such a flurry that you wouldn't know?
O'NEAL: I think he knows it now, but then, I don't think so.
KING: When you hear this, Pat, when you first met these young men, how did you react?
P. TILLMAN: When I first met them?
P. TILLMAN: Well, I've been picking up bits and pieces for the last six years and I'm picking up more today. How someone felt when they were shooting -- we have a -- a massive disagreement on, I mean, what they were thinking at the time. The first time they opened fire, they were less than 100 yards away, and the lighting was fine, contrary to the investigation report. And the second time they opened up, they were about 40 yards away. You can't mistake Pat.
KING: No, you can't mistake him.
P. TILLMAN: Full uniform. He is holding a saw, a machine gun. From 40 yards away, you cannot mistake that man.
KING: Mary, what do you think when you hear these two young men speak?
M. TILLMAN: Well, I mean, you know, they are -- we have to -- I have talked to Bryan and Russell quite a bit. And they both are confused about why they were being fired upon. They are talking about these are their friends. They don't understand why they were firing at them. They weren't in that vehicle, so they tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. And I understand that.
But they are also confused about that. If you talk about it more, they will tell you. Russell has said in the past, he was going to open up on them. He was that close to opening up, because they were shooting at them and they didn't know why.
You know, and I understand to a degree the notion that the higher ups in the very beginning, the very first hours, didn't know exactly what happened and wouldn't want a lot of talking. And of course, you know, Kevin was in that second serial. They might want to know where Kevin was. You know, God forbid Kevin was part of the ones shooting at him. I mean no one knew exactly what happened the first few hours.
But it turned out Kevin was a half-mile away or something. And when he arrived at the scene, no one told him what happened. They never said a word to him. And maybe that was wise. But once they got him to the field hospital, they should have told Kevin, your brother was killed and it's a possibility that he was killed by friendly fire. But they didn't tell him that. And one of the soldiers that was wounded, the radio operator, he was actually placed in a ward with armed guards because he admittedly said that he knew he was wounded by his own guys. And nobody wanted him to talk about it.
KING: This is unbelievable. Pat's younger brother took offense to some of the remarks made at the brother's memorial service and said so. You will hear why when we come back. "The Tillman Story" opens Friday.
KING: A memorial for Pat Tillman was held in San Jose on May 3rd, 2004. It was attended by military officials as well as Pat's friends and family. Pat's youngest brother, Richard, who is going to be married this week, made some very pointed comments during the ceremonies. Here is another clip from "The Tillman Story."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD TILLMAN, BROTHER OF PAT TILLMAN: I didn't write (EXPLETIVE DELETED) because I'm not a writer. And I just want to say it was -- there's a lot of people here. Thanks. It was really amazing to be his little baby brother. Yeah, I'm not just gonna sit up here and break down on you, but thank you for coming. Pat was (EXPLETIVE DELETED) champion and always will be.
Just make no mistake, he would want me to say this. He is not with God, he is (EXPLETIVE DELETED). He is not religious. So thanks for your thoughts, but he's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ryan, you started praying when you and Pat were being fired on. Pat told to you stop?
KING: Some said that suggested because he was agnostic or atheist? Do you have a different perspective?
O'NEAL: Well, Pat didn't have a religious preference. I don't know if he was an atheist or he was agnostic, but the way I perceived it and the way it felt was when you're in an engagement and you're fighting, you want to be continually situationally aware. You want to know what is going on around you. At that time, I was young and I was pretty certain I was gonna die. And I just wanted to say my final respects. And basically Pat pulled me out of this hole I was digging myself into and wanted me to stay aware of what was going on.
I know the remarks that he told me to stop praying people would take negatively, but, in light, it probably helped save my life, helped keep me in the now.
KING: What do you make of it, Pat? P. TILLMAN: Exactly what Bryan said. I mean he -- I don't believe Pat had any issue with religion. In fact, I think he had a lot of respect for religions, said there is an awful lot of good that comes from them. But, you know, bottom line is no one knows how everything in the world or everything anywhere was ever created. There is not a human being on this planet that has that answer.
KING: Russell, you were -- you tell me you were going to break -- Pat was one of the older guys there right? The Rangers, average age for you guys was what?
BAER: I would probably say average age is about 19.
KING: Nineteen? So you called Pat, what, grandpa?
O'NEAL: Yeah, we called Pat the old man, grandpa. He was 28, I believe, at the time. I was 19 when this happened. There was a lot of us who were of that age.
KING: How well did you know him, Russell?
BAER: You know, during work, I think Pat and Kevin, I hung out with them most of anybody. They were into a lot of the same things that I was in. Outside of work, I probably hung out at his house a couple of times. But, you know, during work, I think we had a relatively closer relationship than most people.
KING: How would you describe him?
BAER: Pat for me, he was just a complete breath of fresh air. When I heard he was coming, you know, I put him in a box like most people tend to do. And he ended up being this complete opposite. He wasn't this egotistical meat head. He was this incredibly magnetic, you know, well-read -- just this person who was just this fantastic human being. I really can't put my finger on one quality that he had. He just had so many and his brother and the rest of their family are exactly like them.
KING: Mary is going to be with us. Pat is going to be leaving us along with the two guys. We are going to meet two other women who faced the same thing. But how did you handle, Patrick -- forget all the other circumstances -- the loss of a child?
P. TILLMAN: I didn't. I haven't yet. I'm still working on it. It's different. The gushers are not like they used to be, but it's still --
KING: It's not supposed to be, right?
P. TILLMAN: Not supposed to be. Got to cut in line. It is not good.
KING: When you hear these two young men talk?
P. TILLMAN: All the more -- another reason it would be nice to talk to Pat now. KING: Think we will ever get the answer, guys?
O'NEAL: Will we ever get the answer about --
KING: The whole story?
O'NEAL: Um, I feel the documentary that they have laid out is the whole story. I was very satisfied with it.
KING: You too, Russell?
BAER: I would like to see a lot more accountability. I mean, hopefully this film kind of pushes a button somewhere that allows something like that to happen.
KING: Russell -- Staff Sergeant Bryan O'Neal, Russell Baer, thank you and thank you.
P. TILLMAN: Thank you.
KING: When we come back, did the government cover up the circumstances surrounding the deaths of other American troops who were killed by friendly fire? Mary Tillman says yes and so do some other mothers who lost their sons. And they are here next.
KING: We are back. Kathleen Koch has risen a great new book "Rising From Katrina; How My Mississippi Hometown Lost it All and Found What Mattered." Parts of the book's proceeds will go to charity still helping Katrina victim in the Gulf. Kathleen has contributed a moving web exclusive to our blog. Go to CNN.com/LarryKing to read it.
KING: We are back, Mary Tillman -- she is called Danny -- she remains with us. She's the mother of Pat Tillman. This incredible special documentary will appear Friday. Joining us now Nadia McCaffrey. She's the mother of Sergeant Patrick McCaffrey, who was killed in Iraq on June 2nd, 2004. And Karen Meredith here, the mother of Lieutenant Ken Ballard, who was killed in Iraq on May 30th, 2004. In both cases, they were their only children.
Now, let's start with you, Karen. The military tells you your son, Ken, died from small arms fire. He saved the lives of 60 people. What did you learn about that that was not right?
KAREN MEREDITH, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: Fifteen months later, the military came to my house and told me that Ken was killed by the accidental discharge of the M-240 machine gun on his tank, that a tree branch engaged it while he was moving, adjusting the vehicle to turn around to finish the night -- finish the mission.
KING: How did you react?
MEREDITH: I was shocked. They called me the day before and told me that they were -- that the military was coming to my house. When his captain, now major, John Moore, came to my house -- or called me three weeks after Ken was killed, he didn't allude to anything. It was just single gunshot wound to the head. And his colonel, Colonel Pat White, never called me. He just wrote me a letter. So I had no opportunity to find out what the truth was.
KING: Do you wonder why they hold back the truth?
MEREDITH: In this case, I think it was incompetence from his unit. They had actually just been extended, and they were in heavy battle every single day in May. So I understand that they were still really boots to the ground. But it's unforgivable. They didn't lose 40 men in the unit. They lost four, I think.
KING: Nadie, we understand you were told that your boy was killed by insurgents, right?
NADIA MCCAFREY, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: Yes.
KING: When did they tell you the truth?
MCCAFREY: Two years later?
KING: How did they do that?
MCCAFREY: The -- I didn't do it myself, I couldn't have. I cried for two years day after day week after week, and so on and so on.
KING: You suspected something?
MCCAFREY: Of course, I knew from the start.
KING: Why? How would you know?
MCCAFREY: Because of his unit. Just about everyone has come to the house.
KING: People were telling you?
MCCAFREY: Yes, of course, directly.
KING: He was National Guard?
MCCAFREY: He was -- he enlisted as National Guard after 9/11 and was sent to Iraq to Camp (INAUDIBLE). He was part of LSA Anaconda.
KING: When they told you, what did they tell you? What did they say?
MCCAFREY: They told us that Patrick was shot multiple times by insurgents in an ambush and was killed on the spot. Immediately, like I said, people told me that it wasn't right; it wasn't the way it happened at all. Actually, the first to publish the truth was the "Los Angeles Times" in a long article called "Who Is Dying In Our War?" And by the soldiers, most of the report was written by soldiers.
KING: How do you feel about this? You can't bring him back.
MCCAFREY: No, no, I can't. I want the truth. And I have been fighting for the truth since 2004. I owe him that. I owe my son the truth.
KING: Mary Tillman, what puzzles I guess people watching would be saying, what are they hiding now? OK, it was a tragedy. It was a mistake. Own up to it.
M. TILLMAN: Well, they just -- they don't want to own up to it. They want to stick by their story.
M. TILLMAN: I don't know. Why don't narcissists keep their mouth shut? Because they don't want to admit they're wrong. I don't know. They are a bunch of narcissists. And they -- you know, collectively. They can't say that they're wrong.
Plus, I think so much of this is deliberate. It wasn't a matter of, you know, accidents or making poor judgment. This was an orchestrated cover-up. I don't know how far the orchestrated cover- ups go in Nadia and Karen's case. What's interesting is that Ken Ballard, Karen's son, was -- he was killed the day after Pat's fratricide went public. He grew up 30 miles from us.
Nadia's son grew up in this Bay Area as well. And he was killed two months to the day -- I think he was killed on June 22nd, actually, not June 2nd -- after Pat was killed. So, you know, that's kind of peculiar you would have these fratricides that take place within months of each other. All of them are Bay Area young men, and we're all lied to. I think that Pat's death was so high profile, it makes you wonder if they were too embarrassed to tell the truth about the others.
KING: When we come back, I want to --
M. TILLMAN: the lies -- may I say this one thing?
KING: Yeah, go ahead.
M. TILLMAN: The problem with the lies is that your brain will go all over the map. If they just tell the truth, they wouldn't be put in the spot they're in right now.
KING: All right, but when we come back, we'll ask the key question: now that it's out, why not tell the truth now? Back after this.
KING: We're back. I wish we had more time. Nadia, you told us during the break that your son was killed by Iraqis that he was training, right? MCCAFREY: Yes, he was killed by an Iraqi soldier from the Iraqi army that he was training, and officers.
KING: That's still considered friendly fire?
MCCAFREY: It's actually considered murder.
KING: It is?
MCCAFREY: There's a trial ending today in Iraq, in Baghdad, that we have been following since 2004.
KING: Still on-going?
KING: Karen, why do you think, now that you were told the truth, why hide anything?
MEREDITH: I don't know if they're embarrassed they didn't do it?
KING: But once they told you?
MEREDITH: I don't know. I think I know the truth. People who have contacted me have told me that they were there. They knew what happened.
KING: What do you think?
MEREDITH: I think I agree with them.
KING: That --
MEREDITH: They're superior -- inferior officers put them in a really bad place, because there was such a struggle with loyalty to Ken and his family, or loyalty to the military. Because nobody in a higher rank told me. In fact, one of his drivers sent me an e-mail a few months ago, and he said, I don't blame you if you don't want to talk to me. That's a terrible -- that's terrible leadership.
KING: It's all PR, right, Nadia? That's what we're talking about here.
KING: Look good in times of a war that began to be unpopular?
MCCAFREY: That's right.
KING: I guess you agree, Danny? That's what this is all about, isn't it? How do we look? Not what the truth is, how do we look?
M. TILLMAN: Right, absolutely. There's just so many more details, even more details in terms of other families that I've talked to that have lost their sons. It just so happens sons -- there's a lot of young ladies that have been killed under mysterious circumstances as well, Lavanna Johnson (ph) being one of them.
You know, so I would really urge people to see this film. It's a very well done documentary. It's very powerful. And I would urge people to please read the book. There's so many details that I can't -- that can't be covered in the film, that I can't cover here. And I would ask that you please get it off of Blurb. Get Blurb and then search "Boots on the Ground by Dusk," because there will be money donated to the Pat Tillman Foundation. It's only the paperback that will happen. If you get the book off Amazon, that's not the case.
And it is the paperback that has the new forward and some changes to the book. So I'm asking you to please do that.
KING: I am too. The book is "Boots on the Ground By Dusk." The documentary is "The Tillman Story." We hope, Nadia -- I know, Karen, what can you say? We hope that some day you find out the whole truth.
MCCAFREY: I doubt it.
KING: Thank you both very much.
MCCAFREY: Thank you.
KING: Dr. Laura's going to be with us tomorrow night. She'll talk about the explosive words she used during her radio show last week. It's an exclusive.
Kathy Griffin is here too. Right now, it's Sanjay Gupta and "AC 360." Sanjay?