The main message of Krakauer's work is to appreciate the sacrifices of soldiers in light of the brutal machinery of war that feeds their efforts into a larger and manipulative agenda. Pat Tillman believes in the need to feed his identity into a desire for a life that was "fuller, richer, and more meaningful." Even if this meant participation in a war that Tillman himself saw as “illegal as hell” and an act of “imperial whim," Tillman recognized that the need to submerge himself into something larger was more important.
The balance between Tillman doing his duty regardless of consequences and a political and military machine that had a focus on only consequences becomes the main message of the work. The reader is filled with a sense of disdain for those in the position of political power. This is balanced with a sense of pure admiration for Tillman. The message that is conveyed is that it is patriotic and morally permissible for individuals to be filled with both emotions when examining the reality of war. In this light, one recognizes the sacrifices of service personnel like Tillman in an even more significant and worthwhile light.