On Friday, "Breaking News" flashed over the media wires that Specialist Patrick Tillman had been killed in action while serving with the United States Army Rangers in Afghanistan. What shocked me as well as many other military veterans is that not a single report or website referred to this esteemed soldier as "Specialist," instead his name was consistently prefaced with "Ex-NFL Player." With all due deference and respect to the hardships that NFL players face each day at practice and during games, Tillman earned his rank of Specialist and that title is definitely a far greater moniker to carry beside one's name than "Ex-NFL Player." Because Specialist Tillman gave the last full measure of devotion to his country, he has further earned the right to go down into the annals of history -- military, sports or otherwise -- as Specialist Tillman. He surely deserves nothing less than that measure of respect from the media.
It is important to note that Specialist Tillman was not overseas making a cameo celebrity appearance in an effort to cheer on our troops then bolting back to a comfortable lifestyle and a million dollar a year income. Rather, Specialist Tillman and his unwaveringly supportive wife Marie made the decision that his desired service to his country was worth more to them than his football career. A $1.2M annual salary buys a lot of cars, a nice house, nice clothes and great stocks in a recovering economy. Yet, Specialist Tillman made the noble decision to sign a contract of another sort: one with his country to become a professional soldier. For those interested in numbers, Tillman decided to forego a $23,000 a week salary as a football player for an $18,000 a year base pay to place himself directly in harm's way. Such a decision would seem foreign to many. Yet, Specialist Tillman clearly understood one overarching truism: service should not be considered an option, rather it should be considered an obligation of each of us.
On Thursday night, Specialist Tillman did not give up the oft-mentioned $3.6 million multiyear contract. He did not give up a career as a professional football player. Instead, he paid the ultimate sacrifice for his community and his country wearing the uniform that seemed to make him the most proud: that of a soldier in the United States Armed Forces. Tillman gave his life to ensure that Al-Qaeda and its terrorist network would never again devastate our country and directly attack our way of life like they did on September 11, 2001. It is equally important to note that there are hundreds of other soldiers who have made the same sacrifice over the last year in Afghanistan and Iraq. Men like Staff Sergeant Edward W. Carmen, 27 of McKeesport, Pennsylvania; Private First Class Leroy Harris-Kelly, 20, of Azusa, California; and Captain Richard J. Gannon II, 31, of Escondido, California and brave women like Specialist Michelle M. Witmer, 20, of New Berlin, Wisconsin, who -- like Specialist Tillman -- fought courageously knowing full well that her siblings were in the same danger.
Specialist Patrick Tillman
Our nation is tremendously fortunate to have citizen-soldiers like Specialist Tillman and his brother Kevin, SSGT Carmen, PFC Kelly, CPT Gannon and SPC Witmer, as their selfless actions and service to our nation help to drown out much of today's pop culture that would decry their efforts with the very same freedom of speech these brave soldiers fought and died to protect. There was a time when the world of pop culture was far different from what it is today. Stars of the film and recording industries, as well as professional athletes, put their careers on hold and gave up some of their best years for their country. Clark Gable, although too old to be drafted into World War II, worked his way up from Private to Captain in the Army Air Corps. He served there with fellow actors Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan who also put promising careers on hold to serve their country.
Other actors like Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda both served in the U.S. Navy during the defining moments in the lives of the "Greatest Generation." Too bad their spirit of selfless service and patriotism were not passed on to their children! Baseball great Ted Williams gave up some of his best years in order to serve in both World War II and the Korean War. Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn did the same. Mr. Spahn, who passed away just last fall, returned to a stellar baseball career after his tour in
Europe and is the most decorated veteran in the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. In an interesting commentary about the misplaced importance bestowed on professional sports and celebrity, Spahn was once asked after his baseball career ended if he had ever felt more pressure than pitching in the World Series. He quickly responded, "Well, there was the Battle of the Bulge." Even career-driven Elvis Presley put his music and acting pursuits aside and served in the Army in the 1950's. What was each of these individual's common denominator? Shared sacrifice and a clear understanding that freedom is not free.
It is only through the actions and dedication of people like Specialist Tillman that our faith can be restored and that our posterity has the opportunity to witness shining examples of honor, courage and leadership. We, as a nation, can best ensure their lasting memory by properly honoring and remembering them for their sacrifice and not by accentuating as their most important contribution a far less sacrificial lifestyle.
My prayers, thoughts and sympathies go to the Tillman family as well as the families of all the brave men and women who have offered their lives for the security of our great country.
Specialist Pat Tillman was much more than a football player. He wore the uniform of a far more elite team: that of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.
Rangers Lead The Way!
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Everything has been said about this person. Must we now make him into a national holiday or worship him? Give it a break---please. Get over it!
him more important than the other soldiers ?
his sacrifice isn't any more news worthy than the other 100 plus soldiers that died in april....PERIOD
It is not that he is more important than other soldiers. It is the story behind this soldier. It will sell papers and get hits on the web.
Face it, america is full of false idols. Tillman is not one of them.
Rather, let us compare him to those in the life he left behind - celebrities. The next time you see a celebrity trying to score public points off the war efort, remember that what they offer pales terribly in comparison to what Specialist Tillamn did. The, ask yourself who the better person is.
a very brave man with strong convictions and a desire to do what he had to do, he could have stayed home. he chose to go and fight to defend his country against evil people.
unfortunately he will not be coming home alive, he will be missed by those who knew him as will all the others who have given the supreme sacrifice for our freedoms, we can help by praying for everyone.
anyone remember rocky blier, the pro football player for the pittsburgh steelers who went to vietnam, lost part of his foot in combat, came home, fought like hell during the recovery period and regained his role on the ball field ?