Mary Tillman is fed up. The mother of fallen Pat Tillman, the NFL-star-turned soldier who was killed in a friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan four years ago, has just published a book, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman,” in which she reports that she believes that the cover-up after Pat Tillman’s death reached to the highest levels of the Pentagon.

In the book, Ms. Tillman believes that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld knew the true nature of her son’s death. Tillman’s family was initially told he had died a hero, charging enemy troops after his unit was ambushed. Tillman was even posthumously awarded a Silver Star. But in her book, Mary Tillman believes that the story came straight from the Pentagon spin cycle:

“… Donald Rumsfeld knew Pat was killed by fratricide and permitted the cover-up,” she wrote. “It is not believable that a man known for his propensity to micromanage would not want to know what happened to his most high-profile soldier.”

Perhaps. But the real tragedy was that a lot of attention was afforded to the Tillmans and their plight due to Pat Tillman’s celebrity. Tillman was a young, gifted football player who abandoned a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger shortly after 9/11.

The attention devoted to Tillman’s death demeaned the value of others soldiers who lost their lives on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan . More than 4,000 American soldiers have died in the Iraq War, and Tillman was one of more than 500 fallen soldiers in Afghanistan . But why was it so tragic when Pat Tillman died?

Tillman was a football player – the ultimate gladiator from America ’s most beloved sport. But if Pat Tillman was, say, a poor immigrant named Pat Rodriguez from Nogales , Ariz. , he wouldn’t have garnered stories in Time, Newsweek or Sports Illustrated. Let’s be clear here: Tillman deserves the utmost respect for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country. He and others like him should be saluted. But understand that Tillman was a privileged man.

Yet his death was vaulted in its importance because of who he was: a rich, white, Caucasian male who died young. Many of the fallen soldiers in our ongoing War on Terror have browner faces and lighter wallets. Let us remember that Tillman died fighting alongside a ragtag bunch that comprises our military today: They are minorities. They are poor. Some are homeless. Others are wrongly dismissed as poor white trash. And, yes, there are even illegal aliens fighting for a country they are not citizens of. But they all belong to America ’s overlooked Underclass. And when the Underclass returns home, America treats them with disdain.

Perhaps we should reinstate the military draft to equally extend the risk and responsibility of war to America ’s privileged. As it stands now, the “sacrifice” touted as necessary to win the War on Terror falls mostly on the Underclass’ shoulders. If the rich and upper-middle classes want relief from bearing the brunt of the tax code, then the Underclass should also receive relief from losing their blood and treasure in foreign lands.

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