Tillman Tribute

Sally Jenkins has a touching tribute to Pat Tillman, the Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan Thursday:

Pat Tillman would probably want to be commemorated by nothing more than the simple hush we devote to other lost infantrymen we didn’t know. He no doubt would have preferred that we dwell instead on the photographs of those caskets draped in flags coming home from Iraq. He would surely disapprove of so much attention diverted to a single serviceman, simply because he played football. In the two years since he abandoned his NFL career and enlisted to become an Army Ranger, he steadfastly declined interviews and refused to use his military experience for renown or profit.

Instead, he embodied the words of an anonymous war poet: “I was that which others cared not to be. I went where others feared to go and did what others failed to do. I asked nothing from those that gave nothing . . .

War poets may be the only voices capable of speaking to the loss of Tillman, who gave everything. “Tilly” to his friends, he was killed in action in Afghanistan on Thursday because, as he put it, his life as a football player was privileged and he needed, he said, to “pay something back.” While he wished to be just another soldier, he never was, because he made the war personal to us. For better or worse we imagine an intimacy with our hero-athletes. Sacrifice now has a face, and a voice.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Al Bullock says:

    Pat Tillman was a man of conviction. A man who believed in doing what he believed in. It hurts to see young men like Tillman give the utmost to protect what they felt was right and just. Yet without men such as he the world would be a worse place for all concerned. Our country is blessed!

    God bless Pat Tillman and United States of America.

    U.S.Army Ret.

  2. maura says:

    Amen. Tillman’s example is unassailable because no one can say he did it for any other reason than he still believes the dream is worth defending – despite the moonbats who would have us wonder otherwise.

    I know he keeps me keepin’ on.

  3. Jeff Hall says:

    What Pat Tillman did showed the values that he truly had and believed in, honor, courage and comittment. His enlistment in the Army was a act of true selflesness and patriotism.

    God Bless

  4. Derek Deline says:

    A true murderer, has did what he wanted to do, die for his country. Live by the sword die by it American pigs. Peace to the World

  5. ashley says:

    this tribute was awesome! when i was watching it i forgot that i needed to get ready for school!

  6. Jenny says:

    Pat Tillman was a man we can all learn from. He challenged himself, he worked hard to have what he wanted, and was not easily satisfied with himself. We all have potential to be as inspiring of an individual as Pat Tillman. Most of us are living diluted lives; CHANGE-Challenge yourself to be a better person, consider others before yourself, and never be satisfied with less than your best. What blows my mind is that hundreds of other young American men are dying the same death as Pat but have not had the chance to live even half of the life he lived. I’m not sure which breaks my heart more.
    God Bless America and those who fight for our freedom.

  7. If the silence of a lamb is the poetry that permiates in the mind and soul of a soldier as
    he sets his foot into the mud of some foriegn land, then the comfort of knowing that his family, friends and countrymen are safe, is a relief to his courage.