Just another heroic soldier
There’s a cruel irony at work in the recent combat death of former National Football League player Pat Tillman.
Tillman, as you’ve no doubt heard, gave up his pro football career in 2002 to join the U.S. Army’s elite special forces unit, the Rangers. While on duty in Afghanistan, Tillman’s unit was ambushed, and he was killed by hostile fire.
Since news of his death was announced, the major media have flown into the all too usual frenzy mode, with “remembrance” following “tribute” following “a very special look.” And that’s where the cruel irony lies.
Stirred to duty following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, Tillman wanted no fuss made of his decision, despite the fact so many found it remarkable that he would walk away from a multi-million dollar NFL contract and a career that promised a banged-up body, but little chance of mortal harm. He didn’t respond to interview requests before or during his stint in the Rangers. He wanted, more than anything, to be just another soldier serving his country.
Unfortunately, in a media-mad world where even a moment in the limelight means so much to so many, that Tillman deliberately shunned attention seemed almost freakish. Also freakish was Tillman’s decision to walk away from millions of dollars for something as mundane as a sense of duty to his country. Unlike members of the World War II generation in which luminaries such as Jimmy Stewart and Ted Williams volunteered for combat duty, Tillman’s decision to risk his life for his country was unique among the current celebrity class.
But while there are any number of reasons to dote on Tillman’s death, there are a couple of things worth remembering:
n Soldiers with the same sense of duty possessed by Tillman are dying far too often these days, a fact that gets little more than statistical mention on the evening news. Those men and women are heroes, too.
n Like Tillman, the soldiers putting their lives on the line don’t find anything particularly remarkable about it. They’re just serving their country and doing their duty.
We need to remember all of them with the fervor so far lavished on one. Pat Tillman would want it that way.