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Pat Tillman died 10 years ago today

Ten years ago today, Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinal who walked away from millions of dollars because he felt a call to defend his country after 9/11, was shot and killed by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Army so wanted to make Tillman the perfect hero of post-9/11 America that it falsely claimed he was killed “in the line of devastating enemy fire.” The truth, that he was killed by friendly fire, came later; Tillman’s brother Kevin said the family considered it an insult to be used as “props in a Pentagon public relations exercise.”

The Tillman family has repeatedly pointed out that Pat defied what many Americans thought they knew about a football star turned war hero, including when Pat’s other brother, Richard Tillman, stood up at Pat’s memorial service and angrily disagreed with previous speakers who had said Pat is now with God. “Just make no mistake, he’d want me to say this: He’s not with God, he’s f–king dead. He’s not religious,” Richard Tillman said.

When you reflect on Tillman’s decision to leave the NFL, and on his service in the Army, one of the most striking things is how little Tillman said about the matter. Tillman eschewed publicity and declined to go into any detail about why a man in his athletic prime would walk away from a lucrative football career to risk his life at war. We never heard in Tillman’s own voice an explanation of exactly why he did what he did.

And so we’re left knowing only that Tillman was a brave man, a selfless man, and a man who deserved better from the country for which he gave his life.

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60 Responses to “Pat Tillman died 10 years ago today”
  1. ningenito78 says: Apr 22, 2014 11:00 AM

    Hope he’s resting in peace, wherever he is. A true hero.

  2. bos423 says: Apr 22, 2014 11:01 AM

    RIP Pat Tillman

  3. kd75 says: Apr 22, 2014 11:02 AM

    Tillman doesn’t belong in the NFL Hall of Fame.

    He belongs in the American Hall of Fame…

  4. jm91rs says: Apr 22, 2014 11:02 AM

    RIP Pat, you’re the greatest symbol of a selfless Patriot that my generation will know.

  5. thestrategyexpert says: Apr 22, 2014 11:03 AM

    The least his country could do is make things right for those that are still alive. Pat never needed anything for himself and that’s what he would have wanted.

  6. lids1982 says: Apr 22, 2014 11:04 AM

    Tillman you were a better man than most. I hope your family has found peace.

  7. jbaxt says: Apr 22, 2014 11:06 AM

    It sadly took his life to expose how the govt. uses media and blatant lies to manipulate our minds.

    Makes me ponder what else in our history has been distorted to appease the public.

    Pat was a bad (awesome) mofo, we need more like him.

  8. sdsmooth says: Apr 22, 2014 11:07 AM

    An amazing man and American.

    I watched his funeral live on television. A classless event with his family and friends swearing and drinking during the event.

    Pat deserved better.

  9. jamaalcharlesincharge says: Apr 22, 2014 11:09 AM

    A True American Patriot. This country needs more men just like him. RIP Pat Tillman.

  10. ctiggs says: Apr 22, 2014 11:09 AM

    Hey Winslow, this is what a solider looks like.

  11. lostsok says: Apr 22, 2014 11:10 AM

    Because of the ugly cover-up regarding the reason he died, far too little has been spent simply celebrating a great person who did the right thing for the right reason and died tragically, but heroically.

    RIP Pat Tillman.

  12. theflyingelvis says: Apr 22, 2014 11:12 AM

    So many times when talking about football players, people throw around words like hero or warrior. Wrong. Their toughness and ability to fight through adversity is to be admired and applauded, but Pat Tillman is TRUE warrior and a REAL American hero.

  13. buckybadger says: Apr 22, 2014 11:14 AM

    You don’t need an explanation of why Tillman did what he did from himself, it was self explanatory. He loved his country. He didn’t need to beat his chest about why he was doing what he was, he did it for the simple reason it was the right thing to do. Some aren’t motivated simply money and see the world as bigger than himself. Proud of my fellow atheist.

  14. jimthebuilder27 says: Apr 22, 2014 11:15 AM

    A selfless man and a class act. Too bad I know very few people like that nowadays.

  15. 49erfan44 says: Apr 22, 2014 11:17 AM

    Fellow army vet here. Nothing but respect for Tillman. True hero.

  16. logicalvoicesinmyhead says: Apr 22, 2014 11:21 AM

    Today marks the 10 year anniversary that a true American patriot was fragged by his own government in an effort to silence his view that he was sent to fight an unjust war. Who hates us for our freedom again?

  17. theflyingelvis says: Apr 22, 2014 11:23 AM

    Most people, me included, bitch about stuff that just doesn’t matter, like the traffic is too heavy or my appointment is a few minutes late. Pat Tillman gave up an extremely lucrative NFL career, in the prime of his athletic abilities and earning potential, to go and fight for what he believed in and defend our country, and he ended up making the ultimate sacrifice in the process. Man, talk about the right stuff. HERO.

  18. n0hopeleft says: Apr 22, 2014 11:27 AM

    Gave up a rockstar life so others could enjoy their freedom. Think about his mindset on a daily basis as he strapped up overseas.

    It’s truly amazing, and should be remembered in the NFL community forever.

  19. digitalsasquatch says: Apr 22, 2014 11:32 AM

    “We never heard in Tillman’s own voice an explanation of exactly why he did what he did.”

    Actions speak louder than words.

  20. noahbird says: Apr 22, 2014 11:32 AM

    Thanks for doing this piece! Most media is more concerned w/ glossing over our rights & glorifying terrorist acts.

  21. sidepull says: Apr 22, 2014 11:43 AM

    The anti Ray Lewis. This guy was a real hero and a warrior. No statues, no falling down crying on the field, no, he just died serving his country. A very honorable man with his priorities in order.

  22. massappeal12345 says: Apr 22, 2014 11:44 AM

    Pat Tillman’s jersey is the only jersey with any players name on it that I ever bought.

    I wear it every July 4th.

  23. GrossmanDaSexCannon says: Apr 22, 2014 11:54 AM

    A real life Cole Train. More of a hero than any story could write though…

  24. allhailkingflacco says: Apr 22, 2014 11:54 AM

    His number should have been and still should be retired, league wide.

  25. gnarlswoodson says: Apr 22, 2014 11:57 AM

    Rest in Peace Pat, helluva LB at ASU as well. A hero through and through regardless of the friendly fire. Lets also take this time to remember all the men and women of our service who are willing to make the same sacrifice day in and day out. I can almost hear Jake Plummer crackin’ one open for you today Pat. You are missed.

  26. scoobies05 says: Apr 22, 2014 12:12 PM

    thank you pat

  27. mrgroovesd says: Apr 22, 2014 12:14 PM

    For the last 3-4 years we’ve done the Tillman run at ASU and finish at Sun Devil Stadium. It’s so awesome to see about 40,000 people out there running this event. This year is the 10th year of the run and it’s going to be crazy. Sucks that we can’t make it out to AZ for it but we’ll be doing the shadow run. Great event for a great cause.

  28. qb1342 says: Apr 22, 2014 12:19 PM

    The word “hero” gets directed far too often towards football players, but this is the ONLY guy in our current generation worthy of that label.

    There are many more heroes whose names we don’t know, who walked away from their professions, passions, and families to die for our freedoms. To all of them, and the families they left behind, thank you for your sacrifices.

  29. qdog112 says: Apr 22, 2014 12:21 PM

    What a terrible waste of life for a young impressionable patriot sacrificing the ultimate for what turned out to be a lie.

    Tillman was just one of many thousands, who took up arms to defend a corrupt administration’s right to callously lie to the world.

    What may be worse is that that same cabal, knowing his background, lied to cover up how he actually died by friendly fire. It takes the lowest form of organism to kill a young man and then virtually kill his family with lie on top of lie.

    Rest in Peace, Pat.

  30. sixringsofsteel says: Apr 22, 2014 12:22 PM

    RIP to the ORIGINAL gruden grinder.

  31. MostlyRight says: Apr 22, 2014 12:46 PM

    I attended grad school at ASU from ’94-97 and in a massive student population this 5′-11″ kid just stood out on campus, at the athletic center, and on the field. Blessed to have student section season tickets through that run to the Rose Bowl and watch Jake Plummer and Pat…two rare and unique individuals. Then their time with the Cardinals, and then 9/11 and Pat and Jake making unexpected and selfless decisions to leave the game young.

    This Sat I’m missing my first Pat’s Run in years as I’m laid up on crutches, but I’ll be wearing my Tillman ASU jersey and my wife and three kids will go those 4.2 miles ending on the 42 yard line in Sun Devil Stadium with 10’s of thousands of walkers and runners he impacted and set an example for.

    Thanks Pat and everyone else who makes that decision to serve.

  32. trollaikman8 says: Apr 22, 2014 12:50 PM

    A true hero.
    I recommend anyone to read Where Men Win Glory.

  33. radrntn says: Apr 22, 2014 1:03 PM

    one word for this guy….HERO

  34. godofwine330 says: Apr 22, 2014 1:11 PM

    As a veteran he is a brother of mine as I served in the Navy for 12 years. He gave all that a man can give. Did they try to prop him up as a hero? yes, they did. They wanted him as a sort of Captain America, but the truth got out and they back-tracked.

    He did something admirable, something that an athlete hasn’t done since the 40’s, leaving the field as a professional athlete to join the military, but he did it. He should be celebrated as all soldiers who serve should.

    Rest in peace, my brother. SK2, USN, Navy Customs Battalion Quebec 2006!

  35. southstands1 says: Apr 22, 2014 1:18 PM

    RIP Brother; 3/505 PIR 82nd Airborne

  36. ivanpavlov0000 says: Apr 22, 2014 1:35 PM

    Pat Tillman made it clear that he enlisted in the Rangers to go hunt down Osama Bin Laden. He also made it clear that what he was asked to do instead (in Afghanistan) was (in his opinion) totally illegal.

    Something most people don’t know is that after Pat Tillman was making a show of his opposition to the war (that he was serving in), the military offered him the option to end his commitment early. He refused and opted to finish his full commitment like any other soldier. Likewise, the military made the same offer to his brother Kevin (after Pat’s death), but he also said no and finished his commitment.

    By the way – prior to enlisting Kevin had signed with the Cleveland Indians, but chose to go into the military with Pat instead.

    I highly recommend the book by Mary Tillman, Boots on the Ground before Dusk and the documentary, The Pat Tillman Story.

    The way Pat Tillman’s family was treated after his death is a shameful chapter in our history. The men who conspired to concoct and execute those lies were never held accountable, publicly or otherwise.

    There’s never been an explanation as to why Pat Tillman’s military uniform and body armor were destroyed immediately after his death. There was a Congressional hearing about the conspiracy that occurred in the aftermath of his death. That was a day filled with big name military/political figures who all suddenly had amnesia.

    After his death, there was shock (and horror) in the discovery that Pat Tillman was a liberal and an atheist. The right-wing media loved the (fictional) heroic propaganda story about his death. The story they never seemed interested in telling was that Pat Tillman was a person of integrity.

  37. fartweasel says: Apr 22, 2014 2:02 PM

    Peace to Mr. Tillman and all the others who died in wars. Their pain is over. More importantly, peace to all those combat vets that survived war, but never forget it’s horrors.

  38. dalcow4 says: Apr 22, 2014 2:18 PM

    “Just make no mistake, he’d want me to say this: He’s not with God, he’s f–king dead. He’s not religious,” Richard Tillman said.”

    The brother sounds like a real class act. As if you get to choose whether or not there is a God. All the bravado and attitude in the world won’t change what reality is one way or the other.

    But you do get to choose whether or not you get to be with Him.

  39. nofrets66 says: Apr 22, 2014 2:20 PM

    Pat Tillman *represented*. That’s what a man should be, and what an American should be.

    The fact that he was an atheist is ultimately not important, but because we atheists so rarely get good press, I’m going to say he represented us atheists well too.

  40. dobreshunka says: Apr 22, 2014 2:21 PM

    Pat Tillman is a hero. I wish he had been more vocal about his atheism while he was a NFL star, however. He would have been the first and only voice to stand up in a sea of religious hypocrisy. Here we are 10 years later and we still don’t have our first openly atheist player. Tells you a lot about the league and this country.

  41. iamkillerfin says: Apr 22, 2014 2:34 PM

    R.I.P Pat a selfless football player that gave the ultimate sacrifice!!! Thank You to ALL Veterans as well who give everything for freedom!!!

  42. usmutts says: Apr 22, 2014 2:40 PM

    Congress should, but never will, pass a law:

    Anytime Congress and the President decide to send our troops to some foreign country to fight and die, all the military age children and grandchildren of all members of Congress and the White House are AUTOMATICALLY inducted into the US Army, sent to boot camp, assigned to the infantry and sent straight to combat. No deferments. No exceptions. No desk jobs. No excuses.

  43. hawkitrond says: Apr 22, 2014 2:43 PM

    whats’ the deal with every R.I.P. message to Pat Tillman there is a handful of people that give it thumbs down, seriously what is wrong with people how can you thumbs down a positive comment remembering a great hero that died serving OUR country and did so by sacrificing a fortune and all the fame and B.S. that comes with it, this dude was a beast and it makes me emotional just thinking about him (and I am not typically someone who gets emotional) but what a inspirational unselfish stud this guy was, and anyone who who thumbs down an R.I.P. message to him is just proof of how many buttholes are around you at any given time, is it supposed to be funny? Miserable P.O.S’s

  44. @Cereal_22 says: Apr 22, 2014 2:45 PM

    RIP…however it happened, war is hell. If we havent learned that by now we never will. Lets hope the concept is extinct in the coming years !

  45. afcdomination says: Apr 22, 2014 2:55 PM

    makes me feel old. best wishes to his family. real hero. the thumbs down are pretty pathetic, folks. I know I don’t have the balls to give up a football career to serve my country, I am just man enough to admit it. I’d be at the pro bowl every year, enjoy that white sand.

  46. dalcow4 says: Apr 22, 2014 3:02 PM

    Amen to that, usmutts.

    What a crying shame that a person so alive and likable and with so much ahead of him got caught up in yet another stupid and wasteful war.

  47. realheroeswearcamo says: Apr 22, 2014 3:09 PM

    Pat Tillman was the definition of a hero.

    One who has the option of staying in comfort, and instead chooses to run toward chaos and violence for the chance to shoulder a portion of another’s misery and suffering.

    Rest easy soldier…

  48. racerx1225 says: Apr 22, 2014 3:15 PM

    Pat deserved better than this article, which seems to be more interested in making points of of an agenda or 2 instead of simply memorializing a heros death. Shame on you. Karma gonna get ya, you’ll see.

  49. lunarpie says: Apr 22, 2014 3:18 PM

    Pat Tillman was simply a different breed than most NFL players. Selflessly gave up a lucrative career to GET SOME PAYBACK FOR 911!!! No one should form an opinion about how his family members reacted to his death. NO ONE!!! Let them mourn as they will.

    Thank You for Your Service and RIP Pat Tillman!!!!

  50. mackie66 says: Apr 22, 2014 3:45 PM

    As a Ranger father, I can tell you Tillman, was just another Ranger. Every Ranger is the same, they talk alike, look a like, think a like. Tillman was a hero but not more so then any other Ranger. My son made 8,,,,,8,,,,combat tours, in Afghanistan and Iraq, he also lost close friends. What happened that day was simply a terrible accident, which sometimes happens, why the Army didn’t want to tell the truth boggles the mind. I can’t figure out why they took Tillman in the first place knowing the Rangers have a way of fighting that you would have to see to believe and some don’t come home. so why would the Army take a chance on Tillman, knowing his back ground?
    Tillman wasn’t the only Ranger to be KIA, remember that……

  51. bgu42 says: Apr 22, 2014 3:54 PM

    As a veteran myself, some of u are appalling, while I agree that the Pentagon tried to use him as a recruiting tool, he had none of it, didn’t want anything to do with it. But while he didn’t agree with the Iraq war, he did his job their, but he wanted to be in Afghanistan, one of u losers said we didn’t need to be their also?? Really??? Pat Tillman died a hero trying to do the right thing, for the right reasons, he wasn’t killed off to keep his mouth shut, for those that do believe that, its obvious u never served in combat……..

  52. dontbugmeonsundays says: Apr 22, 2014 4:08 PM

    RIP. Salute.

  53. aa1829 says: Apr 22, 2014 4:19 PM

    He died for nothing, just like over 58,000 died in Vietnam for nothing. If you serve the military in this country you are a fool, like I was.

  54. liontuss says: Apr 22, 2014 4:37 PM

    As a proud Canadian, two warriors stand out. Pat Tillman and the Canadian female Captain who took a bullet to the heart in that same hell hole. Neither were drafted, but both paid the ultimate price for the two greatest neighboring free countries on earth. RIP to both and let freedom reign!

  55. kimbo71006 says: Apr 22, 2014 4:50 PM

    As a 25-year retired veteran of the US Air Force, I thoroughly understand standing up and fighting for your country.

    Walking away from a lucrative NFL career and swearing to give your life up for your country?

    Very brave, very unselfish and indicative of the type of man and person he was.

    If you have NOT served in any branch of the military, or ever seen combat, or ever been in a war – you need to move on, rather than post senseless comments that negate all the lives that have been lost from those who unselfishly served.

    I salute Pat Tillman’s bravery and in the end, him giving his life in pursuit of something greater than himself.


  56. gofor2with3pointlead says: Apr 22, 2014 7:06 PM

    While it would be inappropriate to contradict his brother, I’ll make this exception. I’ve had occasion to witness those overcome by grief and it will at times express itself in anger. The contradiction is this. Although he may be dead, he lives on in the memories of those who love our country and admire who he was. Such selflessness and bravery is not easily forgotten.

  57. fosterpops01 says: Apr 22, 2014 7:51 PM

    Please let the man RIP

  58. omniscientmoi says: Apr 22, 2014 8:40 PM

    Pat Tillman would not care to be called a hero. Instead, he’d want us to remember that:

    1) The Iraq war was illegal. Yet most Americans stood by, like sheep, as Bush/Cheney attacked a sovereign nation for its oil. Why haven’t we demanded that Bush/Cheney be prosecuted for war crimes? Why?

    2) The US government lies to us regularly and used Pat’s death as propaganda to further its despicable agenda.

  59. vikingspride says: Apr 22, 2014 10:32 PM

    omniscientmoi, the U.S. attacked Iraq for its oil?
    Have you been there? I have…
    Have you seen the way that the people of that nation were treated by its own government? I have…
    Do you get to live in the best country in the world, because the undying will to protect our citizens at all cost? I do….
    I am so tired of reading this B.S. from people who don’t appreciate the sacrifices that the military has made for them. I am sure that you believe that Iraq was not a threat to our national security, that there is no way they would supply other nations with the means to strike U.S. soil. When you choose to take this stance you are minimizing the sacrifice that Pat Tillman and others who gave there lives for this great nation have made. What ever the reason was, true or false, for the war in Iraq I am proud of my mission and I believe that the majority of military members would agree and say that our agenda was anything but despicable.

  60. espnfeedback says: Apr 22, 2014 10:32 PM

    pat tillmans life was wasted(by ‘friendly fire)
    … an unjust unnecessary war

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