For athletes in today’s society, what they have between the ears is so important. It separates the good from the great and it defines the value of a player both on and off the field. When you talk about how a man’s mind works and why it’s important and how it affects not only the individual but others around him, you should get a clear image of Pat Tillman in your head. Nine years ago on April 22nd, Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. And while we all know the circumstances around his death according to the government were sketchy at best, that isn’t what’s important to remember on this day. Remember a truly genuine one of a kind individual that embodied the type of spirit we all want to be around. If you do your research about Pat Tillman and find out what kind of man he was – forget the football player he was, the athlete he was – look at the type of brother he was, the type of son he was, the type of husband and the type of Soldier he was. You will understand why he made the decision he did. He articulated it so eloquently on September 12, 2001 when he said,
“My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor. And a lot of my family has given up – has gone and fought in wars, and I haven’t really done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that. And so I have a great deal of respect for those who have and what the flag stands for.”
In the book, Where Men Win Glory, which was all about Tillman’s life and story, the author John Krakauer, paints a fabulous picture of how for Tillman, it wasn’t a hard choice to make to enlist in the Army. It was almost like it was the only choice … and the best choice. Pat never did anything capriciously. There was always deep thought and layers to the things he did. If you listen to those closest to him talk about him, they make that very evident.
And so while it’s easy to forget April 22 as anything other than just a day on the calendar, I never will. Simply because Pat Tillman ties together two of the greatest passions in my life – sports and the military. I am honored to have been able to call myself a brother in arms with him and only wish I was fortunate enough to have met him. I think we can all do a little to keep his memory alive and the immense sacrifice he made in leaving the NFL and the ultimate sacrifice that he and so many others have made in defense of our nation. God Bless the USA!
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