TILLMAN WAS HERO IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
Last month, Pat Tillman, a former defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, died in combat in Afghanistan.
By now, most everyone knows Tillman's story. How, after profoundly affected by 9/11, he quietly walked away from a $2 million a year job playing in the National Football League and joined the Army Rangers. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and died in the rugged border country near Pakistan after his unit was ambushed by al-Qaida holdovers.
Tillman emphatically did not want publicity or other attention for his decision. He didn't ask nor receive any special treatment in the Army Rangers.
It's interesting the response his death has invoked. While most people have lauded his heroism, a few a college newspaper editor and a syndicated cartoonist have called him foolish, or worse. One of his critics complained that America has a cult of death not unlike the Palestinians.
Tillman was a complicated young man. He not only turned his back on the glamour, glory and seven-figure salary of professional football, he once turned down a lucrative free-agent contract from the then-world champion St. Louis Rams, preferring to stay with the Cardinals without a doubt the Sad Sack franchise of the NFL because he didn't want to be disloyal to his teammates. If only Ken Griffey Jr. or Alex Rodriguez showed that sort of loyalty to their Mariner teammates.
Tillman definitely marched to the tune of his own drummer. And he didn't appear to care what others thought of his decision. He didn't appear to feel the need to explain.
Regardless of what you think of the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, you have to admire Tillman's adherence to his convictions.
We're reminded of another celebrity, Slyvester Stallone, who weighed in on what he thought about Vietnam with the pro-war flick, "Rambo II" and ensuing rhetoric on the speaking tour. During the Vietnam War, Stallone avoided serving by entering dance school. Unlike Stallone, Tillman was a man who walked the walk.
Regardless of whether you think what Tillman was doing was right or wrong, Tillman believed, strongly, that he was doing the right thing, so much so that he put his life on the line for his beliefs.
Pat Tillman wasn't a hero because he died in combat, at least no more so than the 800-plus American men and women who have died in the Afghan and Iraqi wars. He was a hero because he wasn't afraid to do what he believed was right, regardless of the consequences.
Editorials in this column are the opinion of The Observer's editorial board. The board is comprised of Ron Horton, publisher; Ted Kramer, editor; Jeff Petersen, news editor; and Pierre LaBossierre, wire editor. Letters from readers, signed columns on this page and cartoons represent the opinions of the writer/artist and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial board.