The Ultimate Sacrifice: Remembering Pat Tillman

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IMarch 14, 2009

As the month of April nears, our minds turn toward spring and the upcoming summer; in Arizona, though, they remember one of their own.

He was a great football player but, more importantly, a true patriot—one who saw a need and tried his best to fulfill that need.

While he was killed doing his duty, his sacrifice has not been forgotten—not in Arizona, and not by this great nation. 

Patrick Daniel Tillman was born on Nov. 6, 1976, in San Jose, Calif. In college, Tillman was awarded the last remaining scholarship to play for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Tillman was a linebacker, and even though he was small for the position (5'11"), he was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year after his senior season.

Pat, as he was called, was selected in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals as the 226th overall pick.

Tillman became a safety with the Cardinals after fears from coaches about his size, but, in 2000, Tillman set a franchise record for the most tackles.

It looked as if Tillman would be a force to be reckoned with for a while in the NFL until some terrorists, flying hijacked airliners, changed everything.

In May, 2002, eight months after the horrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Tillman turned down a contract worth $3.6 million over three years; his plan was to enlist in the United States Army.

Pat, along with his brother, Kevin, joined the Army and completed the Ranger Indoctrination Program in late 2002, Kevin had also turned down a promising sports career but on the diamond instead of the gridiron.

Pat was soon deployed to Iraq to participate in the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After that deployment ended, Pat was then shipped off to Afghanistan where he was killed in action on April 22, 2004.

The Army initially claimed that Tillman and his unit were attacked in an apparent ambush on a road outside of the village of Sperah about 25 miles southwest of Khost, near the border of Pakistan.

An Afghan militia soldier was killed, and two other Rangers were injured as well.

An investigation into the deaths followed and it was soon determined that both Tillman and the Afghani were killed by friendly fire, but on July 26, 2007, the Associated Press received documents stating that doctors who had performed the autopsy on Tillman's body believed that he had been murdered.

But Pat's legacy still lives on.

After his death, the Pat Tillman Foundation was established to carry forward its view of Tillman's legacy by inspiring and supporting those striving for positive change in themselves and the world around them. In 2010, the completed Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge will span the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona.

So as the month of April comes and goes, try to take a moment and remember Pat Tillman, the professional football player who set an example for us all.

He showed us that we shouldn't always think of ourselves but that we should try to help others whether it comes to washing dishes, yardwork, or going to war to preserve their freedom.

Take a moment and remember Pat Tillman and all of the other men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives to pay for the cost of freedom for you and I because freedom will never be free.


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