LOS ANGELES, April 23, 2014 — Ten years ago, the National Football League family suffered a heartbreak. Former Arizona Cardinals standout Pat Tillman was killed while serving in Afghanistan.
Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident in which one of his own fellow soldiers accidentally killed him.
While attitudes about war change during different time periods, one thing has stayed constant in the last ten years. Tillman was a hero then, and he is a hero still today. No amount of revisionist history will change that.
After the Islamist attacks of September 11, Tillman wanted to help the country that had given him so much. He walked away from a multi-million dollar NFL contract to take an $18,000 a year job as an Army Ranger.
He did this because this is what heroes do. He put his country before himself. This is what heroes do.
Tillman was shot in the line of duty. Like any fallen soldier, he died a hero.
One can be against the war in Afghanistan for principled reasons. One can criticize the government for making mistakes during the fog of war. One can criticize the military for covering up the circumstances of Tillman’s death.
None of this changes the honor and integrity that defined Tillman.
Being pro-Tillman is not the same as being pro-war or even pro-military. Tillman fought so his fellow Americans could be free. Tillman believed that his cause was just.
The Pat Tillman Foundation continues to bring more good to this world than all of the armchair quarterbacking from those who never wore the uniform.
Ironically, Tillman himself was an atheist who had serious concerns about the Iraq War. He was not pro-war, but he put his personal feelings aside to help win the War on Terror. He died as he lived, putting country first.
The War on Terror will forever remain controversial. Some people are reflexively against all war. Others will support war only if the current president shares their political party. Tillman put his personal beliefs aside and fought for the greater good.
Pat Tillman should not be turned into a symbol for pro-war or anti-war movements. His critics are not fit to lick his mud-stained boots.
Those who truly want to honor Tillman should do what he did. Everyone should put aside their personal feelings and just honor Tillman as a guy who followed his deepest beliefs in an attempt to benefit the world.
Decades come and go, but immortality is forever. Tillman’s heroism is forever.