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Pat Tillman

From Academic Kids

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Pat Tillman was Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Arizona State University. Arizona Republic Photo.

Pat Tillman (November 6, 1976April 22, 2004) was an American football player who, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, abandoned his professional sports career and enlisted in the United States Army. He was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire.

Tillman's death became a national controversy after it was revealed that the Pentagon suppressed the truth about his death until after a nationally televised memorial service, which his family and other critics allege was done to protect the image of the US armed forces. [1] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/03/AR2005050301502.html) [2] (http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2005/05/pat_tillman_its.html)

Contents

Biography

Born in San Jose, California, Tillman started his college career at the linebacker position for Arizona State University in 1994, when he secured the last remaining scholarship for the team. Tillman excelled as a linebacker at Arizona State, despite being relatively small for the position at 5-feet 11-inches (1.80 m) tall. As a senior he was voted the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Academically, Tillman majored in marketing and graduated in three and a half years with a 3.84 GPA.

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Pat Tillman after graduating from the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training. AP Photo.

In the 1998 NFL Draft, Tillman was selected as the 226th pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Tillman moved over to play the safety position in the NFL, and started 10 of 16 games in his rookie season.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army, along with his brother Kevin, who had played minor league baseball professionally in the Cleveland Indians organization. The two brothers completed training for the elite Army Ranger school in late 2002, and were assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington. Both Pat and Kevin were deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tillman was subsequently redeployed to Afghanistan, where, on 22 April, 2004, he was killed in action by friendly fire while on patrol. His unit was attacked in an ambush on on a road outside of the village of Sperah about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Khost, near the Pakistan border. an Afghan militia soldier was killed and two other Rangers were injured as well. The US Department of Defense concluded that Pat Tillman's death was due to friendly fire aggravated by the intensity of the firefight. According to some reports, no hostile forces were involved in the firefight, and two allied groups fired on each other in confusion over an exploded mine or remote controlled bomb. Army Special Operations Command, however, initially claimed there was an exchange with hostile forces. A later investigation conducted by Brig. Gen. Jones found that the Army promoted this story of a hostile exchange of fire while knowing it to be false.

Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since the death of Bob Kalsu of the American Football League's Buffalo Bills, who died in the Vietnam War in 1970. Tillman was posthumously promoted from Specialist to Corporal. He also received posthumous Silver Star and Purple Heart medals.

Tillman is survived by his wife, Marie.

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Tillman played in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals.

Controversy

A report released on May 4, 2005 (prepared upon the request of Tillman's family) by Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones revealed that in the days immediately following Tillman's death, U.S. Army investigators were aware that Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Jones reported that senior Army commenders, including Gen. John Abizaid, knew of this fact within days of the shooting, but approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and posthumous promotion - which were awarded on the basis of a citation report that said that Tillman was killed by enemy forces and containing a detailed account of the alleged battle (which the Army knew had never taken place).

Jones' report contended that members of Tillman's unit burned his body armor and uniform in an attempt to hide the fact that he was killed by friendly fire. Several soldiers were subsequently punished for their actions by being removed from their Ranger unit. [3] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/03/AR2005050301502.html?sub=AR) Jones believed that Tillman should retain his medals and promotion, since he intended to engage the enemy, and behaved heroically. [4] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/03/AR2005050301502.html?sub=AR)

Tillman's family was not informed of the finding that he was killed by friendly fire until weeks after his memorial service, despite the Army's knowledge of that fact within days of his death. [5] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/03/AR2005050301502.html?sub=AR) Tillman's parents have sharply criticized the Army's handling of the incident; they charge that the Army was more concerned about protecting its image and its recruiting efforts than about telling the truth. [6] (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7946201/) His mother, Mary Tillman, told the Washington Post:

The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting.

Tillman's father Patrick Tillman Sr., was incensed by the coverup of the cause of his son's death, which he attributed to a conscious decision by the leadership of the U.S. Army to protect the Army's image:

After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy," [7] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/22/AR2005052200865.html)

He also blamed high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public. [8] (http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2005/05/pat_tillman_its.html)

Later, Tillman's father suggested in a letter to the Washington Post that the Army hierarchy's purported mistakes were part of a pattern of conscious misconduct:

With respect to the Army's reference to 'mistakes in reporting the circumstances of [my son's] death': those 'mistakes' were deliberate, calculated, ordered (repeatedly) and disgraceful -- conduct well beneath the standard to which every soldier in the field is held." [9] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/27/AR2005052701265_pf.html)

He also alleged that the soldiers who had burned Tillman's body armor had done so on the direct orders of their superiors. [10] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/27/AR2005052701265_pf.html)

Criticism of Tillman

In a column published on April 28, 2004 in the University of Massachusetts student newspaper, a graduate student wrote that Tillman got what he deserved for being a "macho man". [11] (http://media.dailycollegian.com/pages/tillman_lobandwidth.html) The student later apologized after a barrage of adverse national media coverage.

A few days later, on May 3, a cartoon by Ted Rall [12] (http://www.ucomics.com/rallcom/2004/05/03/) distributed by Universal Press Syndicate received heavy criticism for portraying Tillman as a misled "idiot" who had enlisted to "kill Arabs". MSNBC.com, one of many organizations subscribed to Universal Press Syndicate, briefly posted the cartoon but pulled it when "MSNBC.com Editor in chief Dean Wright concluded [the] Rall item did not meet MSNBC.com standards of fairness and taste." A year later, in another cartoon dated May 21, 2005, under the titles "Here's where we'll get more troops" and "Reanimate dead soldiers", a drill sergeant shouts to a uniformed living dead, "And duck the friendly fire this time, soldier Zombie." [13] (http://www.ucomics.com/rallcom/2005/05/21/)

Memorial to Pat Tillman has been created at Sun Devil Stadium, where he played football for the Sun Devils and the Cardinals.
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Memorial to Pat Tillman has been created at Sun Devil Stadium, where he played football for the Sun Devils and the Cardinals.

Legacy

After his death, the Pat Tillman Foundation was established to carry forward Tillman's legacy by inspiring and supporting those striving for positive change in themselves and the world around them. A highway bypass around the Hoover Dam will have a bridge bearing Tillman's name. When completed in 2008, the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge will span the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona.

The Cardinals retired his number 40 and Arizona State did the same for the number 42 he wore with the Sun Devils. The Cardinals said they will also also name the plaza surrounding their new stadium, currently under construction in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, "Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza."

External links

pl:Pat Tillman

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