We could use a Pat Tillman in this countryThere are heroes. There are wanna-be heroes. And then there is Pat Tillman.
Not too long ago I was reading how Tillman, a National Football League player, didn’t sign a multi-million dollar deal with the Arizona Cardinals and instead signed off for a much cheaper contract.
Some of you might say: “big deal. It’s rare but it happens.” No, no. You have to understand Pat Tillman inked a contract to join the Army Rangers of the United States.
He wasn’t looking for adventure. When he signed on, he knew fully well he would have to do a tour in a war zone. And he did it right after his honeymoon. Strange things happen...
Then recently, as I scanned the Internet for any breaking news, I read how the former safety had died in action in Afghanistan. At age 27, Pat Tillman was no more.
Before he died, I read how he had volunteered for the service, and I shook my head in disbelief. As I further read on, I found out that he had turned down a $9 million, five-year deal from the St. Louis Rams in 2001 to stay on with the Cards. I shook my head again. It wasn’t as if he were playing for a Super Bowl contender...
But Tillman is just a good example of what is right and wrong in today’s crazy world. How many of us mortal souls could walk away from a megamillion deal that would guarantee a comfortable life?
How many of us could do that AND walk right into a situation where death is a likely outcome? Pat Tillman did all that, and he was in his prime, with so much more ahead. Yet he did what was unthinkable to you and me.
Pat Tillman is a person who led by example, and he just joined the right unit. He was a Ranger and just as their motto, “Rangers lead the way,” says, Sergeant Tillman certainly showed what that truly means. And he did it without a press conference.
He received a Silver Star for his actions in combat. But let me tell you, he’s not the only one who should get one. Everyone who quietly does his or her duty deserves one.
I am ashamed to say this, but I can say for sure that we could use a healthy dose of Tillman spirit in our own forces. While we are living near the world’s most fortified border, many young people seem to forget that. Instead, they are busy protesting on the streets. My advice: Do that after you have served.
To be honest, the service is no joyride. Living conditions are getting better, but in a conscript-based army there are limits. Many young males who serve out their term think their friends who are exempted for whatever reason and enjoying their lives are “lucky.” For them, military service is a waste of time.
Draft dodgers have been around this country for as long as the armed forces have existed. For our professional athletes, there are legal ways to get out of it. Win any color of medal at the Olympics or an event of equal status, and it’s a free ticket out of the service. Two weeks of basic training and that’s it.
I have nothing against that. Athletes operate on a different biological clock when it comes to earnings potential. So the system cuts them some slack. But had there been one single person, say some star athlete who is exempted from the service but still volunteered to go, it would truly have meant something and sent everyone a message.
As it is, we’ll have very few Tillmans. And that’s why they are called unsung heroes.
by Brian Lee
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