In the week leading up to Pat's Run, I decided to try and learn a little more about Pat, by watching 'The Tillman Story.' I won't lie, up until now, I didn't truly understand the whole story of Tillman. I understood the basics. He was a gutsy undersized football player at ASU. Despite being undersized, he worked his way into the NFL while graduating from the prestigious W.P. Carey Business School with a high GPA. Against all odds, he became one of the hardest working safeties in the League. Then he did the unthinkable. Leaving the NFL and it's millions to fight for his country in the war against Terrorism. Past that, all I understood was that he was killed in battle, which we later found out was by friendly fire.
If you don't know the whole story, watch the movie. If you want a quick (and not doing the movie justice) summary...here ya go.
When Pat died in April 2004, the media took the Army's story as is, and reported that he was killed while saving the lives of his counterparts. The Army played it up as truly heroic. They gave the Tillman family a 3000 page document with "details" of what happened. Most likely assuming that it would be overwhelming for a grief stricken family, the Army said he died in the "fog of war." Clearly, they didn't know the Tillmans.
Tillman's mother Mary looked into the investigation and began to find shortcomings in the story. Finding that the Army burned Pat's uniform, body armor, and diary, Mary began questioning all the details of his death. The Tillman family demanded answers, and refused to settle with the "fluff" the Army had fed to the media. She found that the other soldiers had been craving a firefight. They were willing to do anything to shoot their guns, leading to an aggressive group of soldiers willing to fire upon anyone that could possibly be mistaken as the enemy. The Tillmans were relentless in uncovering the Army's false heresy and were able to deliver the truth about Pat's death.
So is Pat Tillman an American hero? As Pat stated himself, he didn't want the attention. He was just like every other soldier, standing by his commitment to serve his country, even when he started to not believe in the mission. Tillman did what few people could imagine doing. Giving up the American dream of money and fame, to do what is most honorable. Pat Tillman will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Sun Devils to ever play at Sun Devil Stadium. PT42.