Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Monday, April 26, 2004

Pat Tillman, Every Soldier

In a train compartment on the way to Scotland, World War II author Richard Hillary asked Peter Pease, another young pilot, his reasons for fighting.

"Well, Richard," he said, "you've got me at last, haven't you? I don't know if I can answer you to your satisfaction, but I'll try. I would say that I was fighting the war to rid the world of fear - of the fear of fear is perhaps what I mean. If the Germans win this war, nobody except little Hitlers will dare do anything... All courage will die out of the world - the courage to love, to create, to take risks, whether physical or intellectual or moral. Men will hesitate to carry out the promptings of their heart or brain because, having acted, they will live in fear that their action may be discovered and themselves cruelly punished. Thus all love, all spontaneity, will die out of the world. Emotion will have atrophied. Thought will have petrified. The oxygen breathed by the soul, so to speak, will vanish, and mankind will wither."

Inspired by 9/11 Pat Tillman walked away from fame and a multi-million dollar NFL contract to join the Army. He went out of his way to avoid publicity for this, refusing all interview requests and in fact not even issuing a statement when he retired from the leaugue. He wanted no special treatment, preferring to earn his way into the elite Army Rangers unit, and he did it. Last Thursday in Afghanistan, Pat Tillman was killed in action.

The reasons for Tillman not to quit football and join the Army were numerous. It would have been easy to tell himself that he was born with a special talent to play in the NFL, to tell himself that despite a higher cause pulling at his heart, he should realize that he has an important role in his current life as a new husband, brother, and popular athlete. Not everyone could or should be a soldier after all.

Over the last couple of years I have often contemplated enlisting. Here I sit and write on this blog, that's read by handful of people, arguing for war. But will I do it myself? Am I obligated to? Am I "chickenhawk" if I don't? I don't know, but those are the questions that rumble around my gut with regularity. With my career languishing in a mediocrity that I'm not particularly interested in, I decided that, if in a few months things haven't changed I will have to seriously consider enlisting in the Army. I recently shared this with my girlfriend and I got a look back that I have not seen from her before. I saw so much sadness and fear in her eyes, and then felt a tremendous rush of guilt for sharing my thoughts with her.

Pat Tillman made his decision upon returning from his honeymoon. I imagine when he told his bride of his plans he got the same look that I did. But he went through with it anyway. He went to go defend a society that was more than willing to make him financially secure and accord him celebrity status for what he was already doing. But he gave that up, he gave up his money, his new wife, and in the end, his life.

Tillman's sacrifice, of course, is worth no more or no less than what thousands of other U.S. troops are doing. His death is no more or less heartbreaking than any of the others. He recognized that more than anyone else. But what Tillman did was put a face on the war, his death is a sobering reminder of what families across America deal with every day.

Pat Tillman is someone I will tell my children about, he did what many of us (myself included) only wish we had the courage to do. Pat Tillman makes me proud to be an American.

It is with that in mind that I have made a request to adopt a soldier, which you can do by going to Soldier's Angels. You can also send a care package for as little as $20. I am vowing to send at least one a month going forward.

Another project that seems very useful is the Spirit of America, I have made a few donations to this grass roots organization as well. Click on the link for more details.

Rest in Peace Pat.


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