by John Swetland
Daniel Patrick “Pat” Tillman was born on this day, 35 years ago. November 6, 1976. The year this great Republic celebrated it’s Bicentennial. How fitting. For some who have lived under a rock, let me tell you about Pat Tillman.
Tillman was born and raised in Fremont, California, the oldest of three boys, Tillman was a leader, even as a teenager growing up. He lead his high school, Leland High, to the Central Coast Division I Football Championship. Tillman went on to receive a scholarship at Arizona State University. Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State, despite his undersized physique for the position. As a Senior, he was voted the PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year. For all of his athletic ability, Tillman was also a great scholar, graduating in 3 1/2 years with a 3.84 GPA. His major was Marketing. Pat Tillman, upon graduation, had the world as his oyster. A winner in every way, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League. Greatness naturally followed. He was switched to the position of Safety, where his speed and body size was better utilized in the NFL game. In his rookie year with the Cardinals, he started 10 of 16 games. A nice feat for a man drafted 226th in that years Entry Draft. Tillman became a star in a league of stars. He was a tough player, a team leader and an athlete that had a future in the league. He MADE IT.
On September 11, 2001 America was attacked. Thousands lost their lives, families lost loved ones, and the country lost much of it’s innocence. Eventually, as great nations do, we collected ourselves, we dusted off the pain, the uncertainty and the rage. We went back to being Americans. As a collective people, we would not crumble like our buildings had. We showed the world that we were stronger than evil, we were steadfast in our love for our nation. We became stronger and wiser as a people. BIG MISTAKE, Bin Laden!!
Pat Tillman, a star in the NFL, was taken aback by these events of that September day. Tillman, ever an American Patriot, felt the need to do more for his country, for the country that gave him a chance to succeed beyond anyone’s expectations. Pat Tillman was offered a contract of $3.6 Million over 3 years by the Cardinals. He would NEVER have to worry about finances again. At 25 years old, Tillman was 1 signature on a contract away from a life of luxury and ease.
Daniel Patrick “Pat” Tillman turned down the gracious offer of his Arizona Cardinals.
Pat, along with his brother Kevin, enlisted in the United States Army. The same signature that could have given him a life that few knew, gave him a mission: To defend HIS United States of America. The calling of a grateful nation was foremost in his mind. The brothers completed Basic Training in September 2002, just 1 year later from that fateful September in 2001. He was not starting the new NFL season with his Cardinals, he was off to the “Ranger Indoctrination Program”. Pat and Kevin were then assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Fort Lewis, Washington. The Tillman brothers joined the initial invasion of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and upon return to the States they entered Ranger School in Fort Benning Georgia. They graduated in November of 2003. Pat Tillman, a budding star in the National Football League, was now a Ranger in the United States Army. The man had a calling, and his pursuit was steadfast.
In 2004 the Tillman’s were redeployed to the rugged, desolate, dangerous mountains of Afghanistan. There was a mission, and there was no waver of duty by Tillman or any of his fellow warriors. This brutal territory took it’s toll on fighters from both sides. The fighting was intense, the terrain nearly impassable, the duty as dangerous as any in this day’s war. For the families back home, these mountains were the scariest, these unforgiving cliffs had taken many a life, and they would claim another.
On April 22, 2004 Pat Tillman was killed in the line of duty. Friendly fire, during a fierce battle with Radicals, took the life of a True Hero. The country lost another warrior, one who put his life on the line for his beloved country. Every casualty of war saddens the nation. Every casualty of war is forever remembered. The story of Daniel Patrick “Pat” Tillman is not much different than the thousands of other heroes we have lost over the life of this Republic. But, we should respect a man who gave up so much, gave up a life of richness and ease at such an early age. We should respect one who had every reason to NOT put his life on the line.
Pat Tillman DID, and that is why I want folks to note the significance of this day November 6th. His birthday, AND, the date in 2012 that we will be electing our next leaders of this nation. We have exactly 1 year to invest in America. Each individual should look towards ones self and truly respect what it is to be an American. Have you invested in educating yourself in what this great nation stands for?? Have your read your Constitution, your Declaration of Independence?? Have you understood why the Pat Tillman’s willfully give of their life for the Red, White and Blue?? The Presidential election of 2012 IS the most important election of our lives. We must ask, as a people, which fork in the road will we take? Will we take the fork that disparages Individual Liberties?? Will we take the fork that leads us away from our history, away from the intent of our Framers?? Will we take the fork that invests in commonality of the masses and not the unbridled freedom of the person?? I pray, that between the next 2 birthdays of Pat Tillman, Americans invest or reinvest in the inner Patriot that we all share. We MUST take the proper fork in this road, the tine which leads us back to where we came from. The tine of Liberty, of Natural Law, the tine of Individualism. The tine that Pat Tillman and every other soldier in the history of this nation has chosen. We must right this ship called America.
What better day to start turning this vessel. November 6th, 2011. Happy Birthday Pat Tillman. We won’t forget your lesson to us all. We will get our Republic back from the brink, that will be our thanks to you and all others who’ve paid the price that you did. We will celebrate your 36th birthday next year, we will bring this nation back HOME.