She wanted no one
outside her circle to know about that grief. Because then she, too, would be
using something pure as a tool. Just imagine a mother alone in a house typing
Where is my son? into a Google box and pressing the search button. That's what
Mary Tillman did one night.
what's�amazing: If you type "Where is my son?" into a Google box
and press the search button, you actually get answers--22,700 of them! They're
not real answers to Mary Tillman's question, of course, no more than any of the
myths we reach for when we're lost or scared, but we grab for them anyway
because they make us feel better, for a while.
So much do we
need them that we'll even take the guy who came right out and said that the
myths are a load of crap and hoist him on our shoulders to make another myth.
The President did it, materializing on the massive video screen at an Arizona
Cardinals game in a taped homage to Pat and the global war on terror seven
weeks before he was up for reelection in 2004. The Defense Department, with the
Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal breaking a week after Pat's death, did it as
Even Russ, who
cherished Pat for standing on his own without the myths, would discover how
hard it is not to reach for one when life ambushed him again. It's what we do
to get by, because none of us wants to drink ourselves into oblivion, the way
Russ began doing after he'd lost his role model. None of us wants to lie in bed
all night without sleeping, as he did, then doze off at last, only to awaken,
crying out, wet with sweat. None of us wants to feel like a victim, lose all
appetite for life, and then start screaming at the woman we love, the way Russ
started doing to Tammy.
Under threat of
court-martial, he'd reported to Fort Lewis after two days on the lam, lost a
rank and swabbed toilets for weeks, but none of that mattered to him. He just
couldn't trust anymore. He lost 30 pounds. He stopped writing in his notebook.
But it wasn't only in his pen that words got stuck. He was shocked, now and
then, to find himself stammering, his brain misplacing words. He wanted to
punch a wall when a sergeant major told the platoon, "You guys need to get
over the whole Tillman thing and get on with your life. I'm tired of hearing
about it. Get over it." But far worse was Kevin's frigid silence, his
assumption that Russ had been part of a deception.
sniper school at Fort Bragg, learned the solitary man's killing art, and was
asked if he wanted to deploy again to Iraq. Even in the swirl of all his anger
and sorrow, he still felt bound in a pact with his brother to see this
commitment through. His mother and uncle flew to North Carolina and begged him
not to go, and when he learned he'd be sent over with men involved in Pat's
death, that, finally, was just too much. He went to a commander and took a
One day at Fort
Lewis, Kevin's and Russ's eyes finally met. They talked it out, and Kevin told
Russ he understood. Russ later told Kevin and his mother everything he saw the
day Pat died. But something inside Russ remained broken. He left the Army in
February 2005, 10 months after Pat's death.
later, Maverick Patrick Baer entered the world. He was born with his heart
facing backward, and three other life-threatening cardiac defects. It would be
nice to say that Mav's birth is what turned his dad's life around, but this
isn't fairy-tale time. One night, unable to contain his hurt and rage, Russ
began throwing things and shouting again at Tammy. "You don't
understand!" he howled.
the police if you don't stop," she cried. "I don't feel safe with you.
I think you need help."
"I don't care
anymore," he said.