|It took nearly eight hours to read this list.|
|Corporal Patrick D. Tillman|
It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the charismatic "man of conscience" died. Killed by fratricide—friendly fire—on April 22, 2004, today his story is one that people aren't sure how to talk about. Why did the initial reports state that he was killed by enemy fire when we knew otherwise? Was he used as a political pawn to justify a war we should not be fighting? Why has the military not come clean about this tragedy? And why is that important? (It is.) Is he still a hero? If so, why?
To me, Pat is a hero because of his sacrifice and his commitment to things that really matter. His decision to become an Army Ranger with his younger brother Kevin means that he renounced a multi-million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals. The Tillman Story says "He refused to speak to the media about his decision, requesting only to be looked upon as any other soldier." He was counter-cultural through and through.
Indeed, Pat captured our imagination for a number of reasons. He was an overachiever. He was brilliant and brash. He looked like a man who enjoyed having a really good time yet he married his high school sweet heart Marie. He could be a irreverent and yet his desire to serve our country was so humble and pure. His rugged good looks ought to have served as the perfect profile for recruitment but on the interior, we know that Pat also raised questions about why we were in Afghanistan. Although he grew increasingly disillusioned, he committed to completing his term. Remarkably, his brother did.
|Pat with his high school sweetheart and wife, Marie.|
Pat would want us to understand that he never did anything for fame or glory. He didn't enter into a challenge for what he could gain, but rather what he could give. And if there was something to get, it wasn't a worldly or fleeting good. Quite the contrary.
|Kevin turned down an opportunity to pursue baseball professionally, to serve in the USMA.|
So on this Memorial Day, I give thanks to the men and women who have served. Their parents, their siblings—their families and friends ought to know they too play a special role in that gift. Thank you Pat Tillman for reminding me of that truth.
Pat and Marie