Everywhere in America today, citizens will be mourning the loss of loved ones, family members, and friends that perished on this day in 2001, or perhaps perished in result of the events of 9/11 and the war that followed. This Sunday, people will also be watching football and having barbecues while cheering on their favorite teams, and probably talking about the most current controversial football player since Tim Tebow - Colin Kaepernick. Today, however, we shouldn't be talking about Kaepernick and his attempt at a political statement. I'd like to go back a few years and talk about another player who made history on and off the field - Pat Tillman.
Regardless of your personal thoughts on the NFL players' death, conspiracy theories or not, he did a heroic thing. After the events of 9/11, Tillman left his new wife and a $3.6 million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted to fight for his country in June of 2002. He served with his brother Kevin, who had turned down a contract with a major league baseball team in favor of following his brother into battle. After only two years of serving on the front lines in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, Tillman was killed by what was later revealed to be friendly fire. Despite rumors and conspiracies surrounding his death, Tillman is only the second NFL player to be killed in action since Bob Kalsu, who died in the Vietnam War in 1970. Following his death, Tillman received both the Purple Heart and Silver Star medals. The Arizona Cardinals have since retired the number 40, and the Pat Tillman Foundation has been formed which gives educational scholarships to veterans and their families.
So, why did he do it? Many normal would not readily give up their lives in favor of serving in the military, and I'm sure there's far less who would leave a life of happiness and luxury and a $3.6 million dollar paycheck to do such. Perhaps the only answer is that he did it because he felt it was his duty. The attack on 9/11 shook our country like nothing ever has before, and the effects of that day are still felt today, tomorrow, and will be for years to come. Today is not about football, but about all of the brave men and women who died on this fatal day and those who then went on to serve our country. So please, when the National Anthem is played onscreen around the nation today, think of Pat Tillman and all of the others lost, and consider standing.
"Somewhere inside, we hear a voice. It leads us in the direction of the person we wish to become. But it is up to us whether or not to follow." - Pat Tillman