Some where in Kuwait, probably, an aluminum casket holds the remains of an American soldier who was killed in action yesterday.
There will be a lot made of how “different” Pat Tillman was… different from his special operations comrades in the mountains of Afghanistan because of his money and success.
The TV talking heads will marvel about how unusual it was for someone to give up fame, career and especially wealth for his country.
That says far more about pundits and our society than it does about Tillman.
They didn't understand Tillman when he got the last scholarship at Arizona State. When the coach told him he wanted to red-shirt him his freshman year, Tillman said, “Fine, but I’m finishing college in four years.” I'm sure the coach didn't understand that coming from an 18-year-old.
He became a starter, Defensive Player of the Year and left in less than four years, a marketing degree with honors under his arm.
Drafted 226th by the NFL, Tillman didn’t listen to the crap about being too small… he made up for it with guts and determination. Eventually it got him a million-dollar career which he turned his back on last year to enlist and serve his nation.
He refused to give interviews to the news media about his decision and swore family and friends to the “no comment” rule. The media didn’t understand then, and now in death, they still won’t understand Pat Tillman.
When he said something it meant it. You could take his word and his handshake to the bank. And in this day of cowardice and pacifism, of a presidential candidate lacking the enough backbone to admit owning an SUV, Tillman stood out.
When the story of his brief military career is finally revealed, we will see that he was much like the other dedicated volunteers with whom he served. But he does stand out from “them”… those for whom words like “sacrifice,” “service”… and duty, honor, country have no meaning.
Now it begins. Politicians are lining up to use his fame as an professional athlete and his untimely death as a way to oppose the war against terrorism as if Tillman’s life was more valuable than the scores of the less well-known who have also willingly given their lives.
Pat Tillman would hate that.
You see, Ranger Pat Tillman was right where he wanted to be… in the crucible, in the fire, moving unrelentingly forward with resolve and an unburdened heart.
Life has a certain flavor for those who have fought and risked all, that the sheltered and protected can never experience.
Pat Tillman lived a full life.