The Mess => Foreign Militaries => US Military => Topic started by: bossi on April 23, 2004, 13:02:00

Title: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: bossi on April 23, 2004, 13:02:00
Former NFL S Pat Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan

April 23, 2004
ATLANTA (Ticker) - Former NFL free safety Pat Tillman, who joined the U.S. military as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, reportedly was killed in action Thursday.

According to CNN, Tillman, 27, was on a mission with Army Special Operations, which was responsible for mopping up the remnants of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

Tillman‘s unit worked in rugged circumstances, often fending off ambushes and avoiding road-side bombings, CNN said.

The Pentagon was not expected to make an official announcement until at least Saturday, the report added.

Tillman gave up a three-year, $3.6 million contract to serve his country. The 5-11, 202-pounder from Arizona State spent his four NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, recording a franchise-best 155 tackles in 2000.


"Tillman follows beat of a different drum"
By Tom Barnidge, NFL Insider  

(March 20, 2003) -- Those who know Pat Tillman know that he always has welcomed a challenge.

As a youth, he high-dived from bridges and cliffs. At Arizona State, he hopped the fence at Sun Devil Stadium and climbed a light tower. Before reporting for training camp with the Arizona Cardinals two years ago, he competed in a 70-mile triathlon.

"He‘s like Forrest Gump. He tries everything," says Frank Sanders, his former teammate.

So no one should have been surprised last spring when Tillman, entering his fourth NFL season, shucked it all and joined his brother, Kevin, in setting out to become an Army Ranger. What‘s a three-year, $3.6 million pro football contract when you can collect $18,000 a year from Uncle Sam?

Pat Tillman gave up the glamour of the NFL to serve his country.    

"Pat has very deep and true convictions," Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said at the time. "He‘s a deep thinker, and believe me, this was something he thought out."

Tillman made no public statement. He wasn‘t in this for the publicity. But you didn‘t need to dig too deeply to find an explanation for his actions. Friends said that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had affected him deeply. Cardinals defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, after a conversation with his former player, said Tillman felt he needed to "pay something back" for the comfortable life he had been afforded.

Whatever his rationale, he clearly was serious about his pursuit. He and Kevin completed basic training in July and advanced through individual training in October. They graduated from parachute school in November, and completed the Ranger Indoctrination Program in December. Just that quickly, Tillman was assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington.

"He‘s a full-fledged Ranger now," Army spokesperson Carol Darby reported. "He‘s ready for combat. He will move with his unit for whatever that unit is involved in."

The 75th Ranger Regiment was deployed recently, presumably to the Middle East. If the description that the Army attaches to the unit ("flexible, highly trained, and rapidly deployed light infantry force with specialized skills") is any measure, the 75th likely will wind up in the middle of the most serious action.

You can be sure that Tillman will be prepared for the challenge. He succeeds at just about everything he sets out to do.


He arrived at Arizona State in 1994 on the school‘s last remaining football scholarship, landing a spot on the end of the bench, where dreams go to expire. He left four seasons later as the Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

He was selected by the Cardinals with the 226th pick of the 1998 draft -- the league packed up and went home after pick 241 -- and five months later, he was Arizona‘s starting strong safety.

This is a fellow who doesn‘t know the meaning of fail -- on the field, in the classroom, or anywhere else. He had a 3.84 grade-point average at ASU and graduated with a degree in marketing in 3 ½ years.

Pat Tillman is nothing if not unusual. In college, he played linebacker, where he was thought to be too small. In the NFL, he played safety, where he was thought to be too slow. When he set a club record for tackles in 2000 and attracted the interest of another team, the St. Louis Rams, he declined their five-year offer sheet out of loyalty to the club that had drafted him.

NFL players hardly have been strangers to military service. Roger Staubach served four years after graduating from the Naval Academy before joining the Dallas Cowboys as a 27-year-old rookie in 1969. Rocky Bleier of the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly lost a leg to a land mine when he did a tour of duty in Vietnam.

But the list of names grows a little shorter when it comes to NFL players who have walked away from million-dollar contracts in the prime of their careers.

The story that comes to mind is one told by Bruce Snyder, Tillman‘s coach at Arizona State. It seems that Snyder planned to redshirt Tillman as a freshman, extending his eligibility by a season. Of course, that would necessitate Tillman remaining in college for an extra year.

"You can do whatever you want with me," Tillman said, "but in four years I‘m gone. I‘ve got things to do with my life."

Obviously, he still does.
Title: Re: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: md200 on April 23, 2004, 13:19:00
I first read of him and his brother Kevin‘s (a pro baseball player if i recall)decision to give up millions and join the military in SI.I thought to myself that these two men are the epitome of courage and patriotism.I wish more people would have the courage to do this instead playing tough guy and saying "if i went there...."or"if i had the chance....".

God bless the Tillman family and friends.
Pat Tillman was a couragous man and a real inspiration to people.May he rest in peace.
Title: Re: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: Casing on April 23, 2004, 16:36:00
Even though I didn‘t know him personally, I was rather shocked when I read the thread topic.  Like md200, I remember reading all about the Tillmans and their descision to join up.  I echo md200‘s sentiments.  RIP.
Title: Re: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: muskrat89 on April 23, 2004, 21:43:00
I can tell you that all of Arizona is in mourning today. He‘s one of our own

Title: Re: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: Jarnhamar on April 24, 2004, 19:29:00
Says a lot about a guy whos willing to give up a 3 million dollar a year job.

Especially compared to someone who joins the army for college money then runs up to canada and hides at the outbreak of war.

I wouldn‘t trade one of these guys for ten thousand hippies.
Title: Re: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: cheeky_monkey on April 24, 2004, 19:49:00
What a strong statement he sends to the American people. I think he did his family proud.

Title: Re: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: bossi on April 27, 2004, 15:25:00
More from The Scotsman:

US mourns footballer who died for country

"¢ US mourns as ex-professional American Football player dies in Afghanistan
"¢ Former Arizona Cardinals player gave up $2m contract to join US Army
"¢ Pat Tillman lauded as example of American self-sacrifice in war against terrorism

Key quote: "In times like this, you think about how good we have it and what kind of a system we live under, what freedoms we are allowed. That wasn't built overnight. You know, my great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbour and a lot of my family have fought in wars. And I really haven't done a **** thing as far as laying myself on the line like that." - Pat Tillman.

Story in full: SERGEANT Pat Tillman would have hated the publicity his death has received. He would have said he was just doing his duty and that his death was neither more nor less important than that of any other soldier.

But as his younger brother Kevin accompanied his flag-draped coffin home to Dover air base in Delaware yesterday, Mr Tillman's death had become an example of US courage and self-sacrifice lauded from coast to coast.

The 27-year-old American football player turned army ranger was killed during a 15-minute fire fight after his patrol was ambushed in Afghanistan last Thursday outside the village of Spera, in the mountains some 25 miles south-west of Khost.

If he was, as friends and colleagues attest, a rugged, outsized, free-thinking personality in life, his legend will only increase with his death. The US army and the war on terror have a new, bona fide, hero to celebrate.

Mr Tillman swapped a  £2 million footballing contract with the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL for the hardships of life as an army ranger on just  £10,000 a year. He refused to conduct interviews with the media to explain his reasons for joining the army despite repeated entreaties from news organisations to do so. His coach at the Arizona Cardinals, Dave McGinnis, said: "He said, 'There are young men and women all over the country doing this. Why should I be any different?'"

However, speaking after 11 September, Mr Tillman had said: "In times like this, you think about how good we have it and what kind of a system we live under, what freedoms we are allowed. That wasn't built overnight. You know, my great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbour and a lot of my family have fought in wars. And I really haven't done a **** thing as far as laying myself on the line like that."

A few days later he said: "You can't live the rest of your life with your tail stuck between your legs." Thus began the process that would see him swap the glitz and glamour of the NFL for the hardships of ranger school.

"I knew that Pat had very strong feelings after 11 September. I think that we all did," said his Cardinals teammate Pete Kendall. "The difference between Pat and the rest of us is that he was willing to act on them, to put everything else aside and go over there. Pat always seemed to do the right thing. He was his own guy with his own guiding principles, but they always seemed to be the right ones."

In March 2002, he told his agent Frank Bauer: "Do me a favour. Worry about your other clients. Don't worry about me. I'm thinking about doing something else."

Mr Bauer thought Mr Tillman was considering going to law school.

When he returned from his honeymoon in Bora Bora with his high school sweetheart Marie, Mr Tillman enlisted alongside his younger brother Kevin, a professional baseball player signed to the Cleveland Indians organisation. They chose to do so in Denver where they could sign up quietly and away from media scrutiny. The brothers enlisted for a three-year tour of duty.

They survived the notoriously tough army ranger school - only 35 per cent of applicants make it through the course - and served in the same unit of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq before Pat was deployed to Afghanistan last month. Despite his celebrity, and being older than the other volunteers, Mr Tillman thrived at ranger school and he was chosen to carry his unit's flag at their passing out parade.

In Iraq, other soldiers testified, he had no trace of celebrity. "He was so down to earth, never made me feel like I was less than what I was. He kept saying how he really loved what he was doing. He wanted to be there," said Private Joseph Bush of Goodyear, Arizona who met Mr Tillman in Iraq.

Other friends, colleagues and coaches testified over the weekend to Mr Tillman's magnetic, exuberant personality and a minute's silence was held in his honour before the start of this year's NFL Draft on Saturday.

Mr Tillman's desire to prove himself on the football field overcame doubts coaches had - at both the college and professional levels - that he was too small and too slow to succeed.

At Arizona State University he was named the defensive player of the year and while with the Cardinals he set a new franchise record in tackles made in 2000. The following year he repaid the Cardinals faith in signing him by turning down a $9 million ( £5.8 million) move to the Superbowl champion St Louis Rams, preferring to stay with the Cardinals, one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Mr Tillman was an eccentric inside the rigidly conformist world of professional sports. He cycled to training, shunning the fast and flashy cars that his colleagues drove. He never owned a mobile phone and the marketing graduate was known on the team as being a more intelligent than usual player. He read books. He surfed. He meditated.

"In today's world of instant gratification and selfishness, here is a man who was defined by words like loyalty, honour, passion, courage, strength and nobility," said Bob Ferguson, the Cardinals' former general manager. The Cardinals', like Arizona State, have retired Mr Tillman's jersey number and the two organisations have established a scholarship fund in his name at his former university.

His Arizona State coach, Bruce Snyder, said: "I almost naively had a sense that the guy was indestructible and invincible and was so smart and so athletic and so courageous that he would be fine."

Bob Setterland, assistant principal at Mr Tillman's former high school, said the school had not, in accordance with the wishes of the Tillman family, made an announcement to pupils about their famous alumnus's death.

"Their feelings are that a lot of great young people have died in the service of their country and it would be wrong singling one out."

A memorial service will be held next week in his home town of San Jose, California.

At the weekend, Mr Tillman's father told reporters that the family would not be commenting about their son's life and death for some time. His funeral will also be a private affair.

But if the Tillman family wishes to grieve in private, countless others will honour Pat Tillman's life and death in public.

"You're fortunate when you come across a Pat Tillman," said Lyle Setencich, one of Mr Tillman's coaches at Arizona State. "But there are many Pat Tillmans across the country. The spirit of Pat Tillman is the heart of this country."
Title: Re: Former NFL‘er Tillman dies in action in Afghanistan
Post by: bossi on April 28, 2004, 14:19:00
In memory of all who serve
The Gazette
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
To die for your country, the Roman poet Horace claimed, is "dulce et decorum," or "sweet and seemly." More than 1,900 years later another poet, Wilfrid Owen, ground that claim into the bloody mud of Flanders in a 1917 poem, denouncing "the old lie." One war after that, General George Patton talked about "making the other ******* die for his country." Today, few people anywhere (except, jarringly, suicide bombers) are very keen on dying for any cause.

In that context, the decision by National Football League star Pat Tillman to throw over a multi-million-dollar contract and enlist in the U.S. Army‘s elite Ranger unit seemed to many people to teeter on the fine line between noble and foolish. By hedonistic and cynical modern standards, the idea of a responsibility to serve, to put one‘s life at risk, seems alien and almost perverse.

So when Tillman died in combat last week in the no-man‘s land of the Afghan-Pakistani borders, much of the torrent of media-delivered praise had an oddly puzzled ring to it.

It‘s sad that Tillman was treated, in death, as a special case. Hundreds of American, British and Allied soldiers have died in Iraq and others, including Canadians, in Afghanistan; that‘s before you get to any calculation of Iraqi and Afghan casualties. Each of the westerners, at least, was there by private choice.

Tillman knew that despite his celebrity he was in truth simply typical of thousands who enlist. He declined any interviews precisely because media attention would be unfair to his fellow soldiers, all of whom, he knew and acknowledged, love life just as he did.

It is sadly appropriate, then, that Tillman‘s death should give us all a chance to remember and remark the courage and sacrifice of all who serve in volunteer armed forces.