Pat Tillman’s life sounds like an American dream story. He was an outstanding athlete, playing baseball and football in high school. Scored a scholarship to Arizona State where he excelled as a linebacker and graduated a semester early with a 3.85 GPA. After college, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and started ten of 16 games in his rookie season as a safety. Out of loyalty to the Cardinals, he actually turned down a five-year, $9 million contract offer from the St. Louis Rams. And he married his high school sweetheart.
But of course, life did not go according to plan for Pat Tillman. On September 11, 2001, America was attacked by terrorists. Tillman decided his most important contribution to his nation wasn’t playing football, but fighting on the battlefield. He turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million over three years from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army in May 2002.
Pat and his brother Kevin completed basic training together in September of that year.
Pat Tillman was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in 2003, was accepted into Army Ranger School, graduating in November 2003.
His next deployment was to Afghanistan, where he was based at FOB Salerno. On April 22, 2004 at the age of 27, Pat Tillman’s American story came to a tragic end. He was killed by friendly fire.
Pat Tillman gave the last true measure of devotion to his nation.
Every man or woman who puts on the uniform of the United States military knows there might be a day they will never come home, to see their family and loved ones.
Law enforcement officers and firefighters know it too.
And now our doctors, nurses, and emergency medical technicians must also consider that reality.
We are living in strange times. But we will always remember the service and sacrifice of those like Pat Tillman who willingly said to their nation, “take me.”
Tillman’s story ended too soon. His life, too soon. He did not take the “easy” route – he took the path that mattered most to him, in his heart.
As the specter of illness and death blankets this nation, many Americans are no doubt reflecting on their lives up to this point, and what the future path holds.
We should all be lucky enough to take the path that matters most to us, in our hearts, no matter how long or short that path may be.
RIP Pat Tillman.