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The circumstances of Pat Tillman’s death don’t change the sacrifice he made

Tillman Getty Images

The day after the attacks of 9/11, Cardinals safety Pat Tillman put the situation in perspective, remembering those who had fought and died for the country and pointing out, “I really haven’t done a damn thing, as far as laying myself on the line like that.”

So he did something, leaving football to enlist in the military in 2002.  On the eve of the 2004 draft came the stunning news:  Tillman had died in the line of duty.

The notion of a heroic death while fighting the enemy quickly yielded to a concession that Tillman was killed by friendly fire after his convoy had been split into two groups while going through Taliban territory in Afghanistan.  Those who twisted the truth to of the Tillman narrative then tried to cover it up, making the situation worse.

But none of it changes the fact that Tillman served, and Tillman died.  Soldiers can die in a wide range of ways.  Whether it’s from enemy fire, friendly fire, a plane crash, a helicopter crash, or some other accident away from the battlefield, joining the military means submitting to broad, vague, and ever-present risk of injury and death.

Tillman knew that when he signed up.  The details of how he died and how it was concealed, while relevant to improving procedures for owning up to mistakes and not attempting to spin stories for recruiting or P.R. purposes, don’t change the fact that Tillman served, and Tillman died.

His death is no less important than any that have occurred to men and women serving in the armed forces.  Regardless of how the ultimate sacrifice is made, it remains the ultimate sacrifice.  All are remembered today; Tillman’s decision to serve at a time when he still could have continued to play football at a far lower physical risk and for far more money makes his sacrifice even more remarkable.

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41 Responses to “The circumstances of Pat Tillman’s death don’t change the sacrifice he made”
  1. bcgreg says: May 27, 2013 5:43 PM

    In response to the headline.

    Goddamn right!

    Thank you, Mr Tillman!

  2. timbuttrum says: May 27, 2013 5:44 PM

    Good article and I agree wholeheartedly. How Tillman died is irrelevant. He gave up his well paying career and family so he could be shipped oversees to fight for liberty and our freedom. He is a hero in every sense of the word and it’s people like Pat Tillman that make me proud to be an American. God bless you Tillman family and thank you for your sacrifice for this country

  3. thestrategyexpert says: May 27, 2013 5:54 PM

    Very true and good point, but still speaks to the question of when can America finally get quality leadership, and Tillman’s death in some way helps bring more attention to that most important question we face in this nation.

  4. mdev1987 says: May 27, 2013 5:55 PM

    He’s a true hero! Not like the other everyday athlete. He made a difference. Thank you Pat Tillman!

  5. bigbluefan11 says: May 27, 2013 5:56 PM

    He gave up millions to fight this country. I challenge anyone who diminishes that because of the circumstances to do the same themselves. Walk away from a lucrative profession to become soldier. Just like that.

    I have a ton of respect for Tillman, and always will.

  6. clownpuncher says: May 27, 2013 5:59 PM

    An excellent point. I have lost more friends than I care to realize, some “in country” and some during training. Either way, it doesn’t detract from the sacrifice they have all made in the defense of this country.

  7. shukey11 says: May 27, 2013 6:03 PM

    Everyone who puts on a uniform for their country (by choice of course) is a remarkable sacrafice. what pat tillman did is a rare thing and in no way am I down playing his choice. any man or woman willing to put on that uniform is remarkable regardless of class, age, ability or anything else.

  8. corvusrex96 says: May 27, 2013 6:11 PM

    The Army officers who altered the story on Pat Tillman’s death should have been kicked out of the service . Duty Honor Country

  9. metalhead65 says: May 27, 2013 6:40 PM

    I see the libertards are out in force today. thumbs down on somebody who gave up everything for his country? it does not matter how he died only that he did so left wing tree huggers could have the freedom to vote thumbs down on a hero.

  10. seaeagle707 says: May 27, 2013 6:54 PM

    War is messy. There are no scripts for soldiers to follow, and just as in civilian life, mistakes are made. I don’t know any of those involved personally, but I’ll guarantee you that the soldiers who fired on their comrades’ position are each soul searching to this day, wondering if it was their bullet that took Tillman’s life. That’s just the way it is for those that are handed guns and told to go shoot at the enemy.

    Tillman was there because he believed in his Country, and knew that she had enemies that wanted her life. He was the best of us, at the worst of times.

    Mahalo, Pat Tillman.

  11. RedRuffensor says: May 27, 2013 6:54 PM

    What Tillman did was selfless and courageous, without a doubt. And, it is right to honor him for that.

    At the same time, Tillman himself “expressed his fear that if something happened to him, his death would be exploited by the military and used as propaganda”. That’s exactly what happened.

    In light of Tillman’s sacrifice, I think it behooves us to remember that immoral and corrupt politicians (i.e., Bush, Cheney and their oil-patch cronies) can lead America into an unjust war, based on a pack of lies, for their own greedy purposes (i.e., Iraq, for oil money) while sacrificing the lives of brave Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis and wasting billions of taxpayers’ money.

    If Tillman’s memory is to be honored, the best way to do that IMHO is to prosecute Bush and Cheney.

  12. TheWizard says: May 27, 2013 6:58 PM

    Agreed. A fine young man who deserves honor.

    There have been friendly fire deaths as long as there have been wars, in no way does it diminish the service of the individual.

  13. jdphx says: May 27, 2013 6:58 PM

    Bless all our Veterans, past and present.

    But you might want to Google – Pat Tillman cover up

  14. brownspower says: May 27, 2013 7:31 PM

    Amen Mike.
    May God bless all who serve our country. We need them as much today as we ever did!

  15. jimmylions says: May 27, 2013 7:36 PM

    Well said.

    Details for those who are interested can be found in the book written by Tillman’s mom, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk,” and in the documentary, “The Pat Tillman Story.”

    One of the lessons of Pat Tillman’s story is that the men and women who serve in military service cannot be stereotyped. Each one is a unique person who for his/her own reasons answered the call to serve the nation.

  16. classyjacklambert says: May 27, 2013 7:53 PM

    Why the hell are so many people giving thumbs downs to the people saying this guy made a true sacrifice? As someone who served, you people make me sick.

  17. timbuttrum says: May 27, 2013 7:55 PM

    Stunned by the number of dislikes. Shame on you people

  18. bcgreg says: May 27, 2013 8:05 PM

    I can tell by the thumbs up-thumbs down feedback that this country is screwed by so-called enlightened people. I don’t care if you are for the war or against it, to give a thumbs down for any comment that salutes Pat Tillman’s service and sacrifice, shows this country’s general dumb-f***edness.

  19. kuantan97 says: May 27, 2013 8:12 PM

    Pat Tillman had a good heart it seems, however misplaced it may have been. He made “the ultimate sacrifice,” we are told. He left his family and a football career so that he could die in a faraway desert serving an army occupying a foreign nation in an undeclared war. He died not for you or me, but for bankers, ambitious politicians and greedy armament companies.

  20. commonsensedude says: May 27, 2013 8:17 PM

    God Bless Pat Tillman and all the other veterans who wore the uniform of our great country with honor and distinction. God Bless their families as well and God Bless the USA!!

  21. fissels says: May 27, 2013 8:24 PM

    Thank you Mike. One of the best articles you’ve ever written.

  22. packerpauly says: May 27, 2013 8:25 PM

    Memorial Day is the perfect day to remember the sacrifices that have been made, not only by Tillman but also by countless others down through the history of our country, which enable myself and my family to live as free people. Thanks to all of these real life heroes.

  23. justwinbaby29 says: May 27, 2013 8:39 PM

    “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity”.

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

  24. nofrets66 says: May 27, 2013 9:24 PM

    “God blessing” Pat is fine, but he was an atheist. It would be good to honor him as he likely would have wanted to be honored: as someone who did the right thing for his country, and the people in it that he loved.

  25. charliesez says: May 27, 2013 9:29 PM

    I see so many wonderful comments from the PFT community about Pat, his service and sacrifice for our Country. I share those views and I have a difficult time understanding why people would choose a thumbs down in response to those comments.

  26. Wolfgang Depner says: May 27, 2013 9:30 PM

    Contrary to the prevailing opinion, it does matter how Pat Tillman served and died. Without wishing to attribute any undue sentiments to Pat Tillman, he enlisted to serve what he believed was a noble cause based on certain principles, including but not exclusively democratic rule. Self-governance however only functions correctly if all of its participants respect certain social norms, including but again not exclusively, an open and honest press, a functioning judiciary and so on. The circumstances of Pat Tillman violated these norms. Government officials deliberated lied to the public and worse, have yet to suffer any consequences for their behaviour. In short, the instrumentalization of Tillman’s death for political and propaganda purposes undermines everything for which he reportedly fought and unfortunately died.

  27. 6sbtitles2sweet says: May 27, 2013 10:47 PM

    Whether your a fan of any war, certain politics or how our military is ran, none of it matters when you talk about the sacrifice by a soldier. This is the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE because of soldiers like Mr. Pat Tillman and all others who have served and who have served and given the ultimate sacrifice. If you can’t understand this statement and give it a thumbs done, YOU HAVE ISSUES! May all our soldiers who have given their lives “REST IN PIECE”

  28. raider23mike says: May 27, 2013 10:52 PM

    Tell me more about how free we are…

  29. kicksave1980 says: May 27, 2013 11:20 PM

    Thank you to Pat Tillman and every other man and woman who put their life on the line to serve our great nation.

    As an Arizona State alum, I am proud of the connection to Pat, but the guys with less remarkable (or marketable) stories are also not forgotten.

  30. u2krazie says: May 27, 2013 11:23 PM

    RIP Pat.

    You truly are an American hero.

    I will always salute and remember you on this Memorial day.

  31. purpblooded says: May 27, 2013 11:25 PM

    A true Patriot. (not the NFL team) He gave all for us.

  32. mcba1n says: May 27, 2013 11:38 PM

    I have family that died in WW2. I honor them. I also believe, based on current evidence, that Tillman was murdered by Americans. Much can happen in the fog of war, but we must be careful with our jingoism and that.

    Tillman was NOT defending any freedom – he was protecting corporate interest that had nothing to do with anything(military complex). Bin Laden was over 1k miles away from where he was murdered. I mourn his death. I won’t see him in heaven, as Tillman was athiest.

    I wish Pat was smart enough to avoid placing himself in harms way. He didn’t do it for us – he did it for himself and the corporate industrial complex.

    Yeah Pat believed in America, just as I do. I’d die for it if I believed I could help the nation. Pat was murdered for nothing – and that’s sad. He was a GREAT man. AMAZING man. I honor him today. I just wish our government did the right thing and went after our REAL enemies (that Pat believed he was fighting).

    All said, salute to those that died for 0 reason and salute to those that died to protect us from jerkoffs like hitler. Also, those drafted and died from Vietnam. National tragedy. God rest them all proper.

  33. catfish252 says: May 27, 2013 11:39 PM

    I have all the respect in the world for Pat Tillman and his wife. They could have turned their backs, most couples in similar situations did, Pat and his wife chose not to. God Bless the both of them.

  34. riverhorsey says: May 27, 2013 11:51 PM

    I don’t think anyone ever said the circumstances of his death take away from his sacrifice.

    The issue was about George Bush and the military lying about the way he died and that cover up.

  35. johnnyb216 says: May 28, 2013 12:00 AM

    Wouldn’t have a problem with the entire league retiring his number. The unselfish attitude he displayed is far more admirable than any record or award.

  36. ningenito78 says: May 28, 2013 12:16 AM

    Well done Florio. I was hoping you guys would mention Tillman today. A true superhero.

  37. barneyrumble says: May 28, 2013 12:35 AM

    Good article Mike

  38. pinball123 says: May 28, 2013 12:35 AM

    I have a plaque that sits above my desk – “Pat Tillman – American Hero” This was a wonderful article Mike…God bless Pat Tillman and his family and all those who have sacrificed for the freedoms each one of us enjoy.

  39. mikefitz13 says: May 28, 2013 1:23 AM

    Well said!

  40. barrysandersjr says: May 28, 2013 1:57 AM

    Look into what really happened to pat tillman.
    His dad is mad as heck at the botched investigation.
    Sad story.

  41. geicocaveman says: May 28, 2013 3:14 AM

    Thank you for your service Patrick Tillman

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