There has probably never been a greater example of selfless heroism in sports than Pat Tillman, the man who gave up a football career to fight in the War on Terror.
After a stellar career at Arizona State, Tillman was a late pick for the Arizona Cardinals where he made the most of his opportunity eventually being named an All-Pro. Recognizing his integral role in the Cardinals’ defense, the team made a three year offer for $3.6 million to allow Tillman to continue his NFL career.
In light of the events of September 11th, Tillman felt compelled to serve. He wanted to fight for his country.
Along with his brother Kevin, Tillman enlisted in the U.S. Army, knowing and relishing that he would be sent over to fight our nation’s enemies in combat.
While the tragic death of Tillman and the pathetic cover up of the events surrounding that loss has been well documented, we have too often lost sight of the man who willingly gave it all up for his country.
Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who have given their lives for our freedoms, for our way of life, for the very survival of our nation. Pat Tillman is such a man who needs to be remembered, and his sacrifice deserves to have a place in our thoughts this holiday Monday.
Had Tillman allowed the war in Iraq to be “someone else’s problem,” he could be spending this offseason pondering whether it was time to retire following a stellar career. Or, he could be thinking of whether to join ESPN or another entity as an analyst.
Instead, Tillman chose to do the hard thing, to set aside millions fully knowing that his only cost might not be the difference in salary between the NFL and the US Army.
Although Memorial Day will continue to be a great day to spend time with family, take a day off, and get in a little relaxation, the heroes that paved the way so that you and I could enjoy this day deserve to be remembered. As you set aside time to ponder the sacrifice made by our nation’s heroes, make sure to set aside time to think about Pat Tillman, the man who chose to fight rather than enjoy the game he loved and money that would have allowed him to live well for a long time.
Such a decision is rarely made in this day and age, and, in an era of extravagantly paid athletes, sacrifice is often a word that does not make it into the vocabulary. We cannot allow this lesson to be forgotten, nor fail to remember this American hero.