Many people might not recognize the name Pat Tillman, but they should. Today, sports are filled with whiney, overpriced athletes, whose feats of athleticism are called into question every other day. Pat Tillman sounds to me like a regular guy, but he is more than that. He's a true patriot. Would you turn down 3.6 million dollars to fight for your country?

Tillman was always driven. When his coach at Arizona State told him that he would most likely be red-shirted for a season, Tillman told his coach that no matter what, he'd be out of school in four years. That meant no sticking around for the "extra" season. Tillman's mentality continued after his collegiate years. Before reporting to the 2001 training camp for the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman completed a 70 mile triathalon. More than that, Pat's head has always been in the right place. In 2001 he declined a 5 year contract worth $9 million from the St. Louis Rams, just because he wanted to run out his original contract with the team that drafted him.

Then it happened. September 11, 2001 affected everyone in a large variety of ways. For Tillman, it was a wakeup call. In less than a year, on May 23, 2002, Pat Tillman surprised the American populace and announced he was giving up the rest of his contract, three more years worth $3.6 million. He was joining his brother, Kevin, who himself was a prospect in the Cleveland Indians' farm system, to join the Army Rangers. Pat Tillman had married just two weeks prior to this announcement. A day before the announcement, Tillman told Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell of his decision, same with the coaching staff.

When Pat Tillman signed up for the army he asked for no media presence. He didn't want any special treatment or extra publicity. This was not an attempt at 15 minutes of fame, this was what he wanted. He agreed to join the rangers (if found fit) for three years. He planned to rejoin the NFL after that time. Tillman successfully fulfilled all the requirements to join this elite team. In December of 2002, Pat Tillman became an Army Ranger.

Pat Tillman would not get the chance to return to the NFL. He was first sent to Iraq, in March of 2003. His unit was later moved to the campaign in place in Afghanistan. The lands of Afghanistan would be the last he would see. On April 23, 2004, it was announced that Tillman was killed in the line of duty. He was 27 years old.

Tillman's story is one we should remember for a long time. Here's a man who graduated with a 3.84, summa cum laude, in 3.5 years from a respectable college. Here's a man who worked in one of the hardest professions, and here's a man who gave it all up for his patriotic duty. Ever since the 1700's, Americans have been finding ways of removing themselves from different wars. Draft dodging, sending slaves in their stead, etc. Pat Tillman took it on himself to go and do the dirty work, when he never needed to. And I respect that.

Here's to you, Pat Tillman. A man among men, and a true patriot.


Sources:
http://www.nfl.com/insider/story/5701425
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/news/2002/05/23/cards_tillman_ap/
and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4815441/, which is the first article I saw about his death.
“Thanks Pat. (toasting him with a pint of Guinness) I didn't write shit because I'm not a writer. I'm not just going to sit here and break down on you. But thanks for coming. Pat's a fucking champion and always will be. Just make no mistake, he'd want me to say this: He's not with God. He's fucking dead. He's not religious. So, thanks for your thoughts, but he's fucking dead.”

You’d probably expect that quote to come from some anti-war Cindy Sheehan type. You know, some left wing liberal nutcase ala Michael Moore or somebody else with an axe to grind about the current administration and its conduct of the war.

Instead, it came from Pat Tillman’s youngest brother, Richard Tillman. The occasion was a highly public memorial service in which certain mourners such as Senator John McCain and Maria Shriver had heaped religious platitudes upon the deceased. Maybe it was said out of bitterness since at the time, the occasion of Pat Tillman’s death still hadn’t fully set in. Maybe it was an attempt by Richard Tillman to set the record straight about all the hype and hoopla that surrounded his famous brother’s death and how he lived his life.

It’s a shame the same can’t be said of the government. Pat Tillman deserved much better.

When news first broke about the death of Pat Tillman the country was shocked. After all, this man was a poster boy for the American effort to rid the world of terrorism. This is the man who would forgo a huge contract to play in the NFL for the privilege of serving his country in its time of need. The is the man who would inspire others to follow in his footsteps. This is the man that the generals in the Pentagon and the Department of Defense envisioned as a recruiter’s dream come true.

Pat Tillman would have none of it. He turned down requests for interviews, he refused to appear in recruiting commercials or to have his image displayed on any posters. He just wanted be like the many thousands that came before him, to do his time and serve his country. After his training, he was sent off to Afghanistan.

The first reports of Tillman’s death had him heroically engaging the enemy in a firefight. As it turns out, it was a story worthy of Jessica Lynch type treatment. It turns out, Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire and from recent reports, the Army knew of the circumstances of his death almost immediately. There was only one problem though, they didn’t inform his family or the American public about those circumstances for weeks and weeks. It seems the Army had blown up their own poster boy.

One might be tempted to ask why? Friendly fire during wartime, while not common, can and will occur. Given the confusion on the battlefield, the range of the weapons being used and the fear that must overtake a soldier when he sees his comrades dying all around him, mistakes are bound to happen. Why then, didn’t the Army just come clean?

Pat Tillman was killed in the line of duty on April 22, 2004. The news of the Abu Ghraib Prison abuse scandal would come out less than a week later. Was the Army trying to avoid informing the American public of two embarrassing incidents at the same time?

"'I'm disgusted by things that have happened with the Pentagon since my son's death. I don't trust them one bit.” Mary Tillman, Pat Tillman’s mother
"I can understand why Pat Tillman's family, you know, has got significant emotions. A man they loved and respected was killed while he was serving his country." – George W. Bush

So far, there have been seven separate investigations regarding the circumstances of Mr. Tillman’s death. In the latest one, the Pentagon trotted out former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who while acknowledging that some mistakes were made along the way, continue to deny that there was a cover-up. I think the question boils down to the proverbial “What did you know and when did you know it.”

  • Why did members of Tillman’s own unit burn his uniform and body armor shortly after they discovered that they were the ones who killed him.
  • Why is that the general who knew of the circumstances of Tillman’s’ death withheld the information from the family for months. When asked why by investigators why that was, he claimed “ "he had a bad memory, and couldn't recall details of his actions”. He would later claim that same statement or something similar over seventy more times while being questioned.

  • Family members said that Mr. Tillman kept a daily dairy of his actions and had done so for years. No evidence of the diary has ever been found and the Army claims to know nothing about its existence.
  • In e-mails and other correspondence, attorneys representing the Army congratulated themselves for delaying the investigations.
  • That no evidence of enemy fire was ever found at the scene of Tillman’s death nor had any other members of his platoon been hit.

    According to reports that eventually surfaced, here’s what really happened:.

    Briefly, after a Humvee broke down, the platoon was ordered to split up, with Tillman's half going on ahead to put "boots on the ground" in the little town of Manah. The other half of the platoon followed on the same road, which was not the original plan. Because of the terrain, they lost radio contact. When an explosion went off, they figured they were under attack by Taliban insurgents and fired back. It turned out the two halves of the platoon were firing at one another. After being hit once in the arm, Tillman reportedly got up and started waving his arms screaming “Cease fire, cease fire. Friendlies, cease fire”

    He would wind up taking take three more bullets to the forehead..

    In closing, I doubt we’ll ever get to the bottom of what really happened that day. That’s a shame, Mr. Tillman deserves better and so does his family. By trying to protect their own interests, the United States Army has done them a disservice that no member of the military, especially one who volunteered out of a sense of patriotism and duty and gave up so much because he believed in a cause, have forever stained his memory.

    Source(s)

    http://www.antiwar.com/bock/?articleid=4143
    http://www.counterpunch.org/zirin04292004.html
    http://uncivillitigator.blogspot.com/2004/05/rich-tillman-on-pat-tillman.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Tillman
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