Veterans Day Reminds Us To Honor All Heroes

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From what we know of Pat Tillman, he was an intensely private man who shied away from public attention when he chose to join the military after 9/11.

Tillman refused all media requests for interviews even though his decision to give up a lucrative professional football contract for life as a U.S. Army private was applauded around the country. When he and his brother, Kevin, received the Ashe Award for courage at the 2003 ESPY presentations, neither showed up for the nationally televised program.

It has been reported that Tillman said his decision was a private one and he wanted to share it only with family. Following his death, the family has remained private and has shown very little visible emotion.

Tillman would probably have been embarrassed by the tributes paid him Saturday evening in Sun Devil Stadium and Sept. 19 during an Arizona Cardinals vs. New England Patriots game.

He probably knew he was only one of many who made personal sacrifices to fight terrorism.

There also are some who think the Tillman tributes have been blown out of context.

But think about it, Tillman was the only one out of 1,200-plus NFL players who joined the military after 9/11. The last time a pro player did that was in 1970 when Bob Kalsu put aside a promising career with the Buffalo Bills to fight in Vietnam.

Like Tillman, Kalsu died in combat.

Our impressionable young people read more about professional athletes in police reports than they do the heroics of men like Tillman and Kalsu. Their contributions cannot be over emphasized by the media or those who honor them.

But honoring them doesn't mean we have forgotten they are only two of the hundreds of thousands brave soldiers who have given up the comfort and safety of their homes to help preserve the American way of life.

Veterans Day ceremonies at Payson High School and at the Mazatzal Casino Nov. 11 gave us the opportunity to reflect on the bravery of all our soldiers. The ceremonies tugged at our emotions.

There's more, however, that can be done to help the families of America's fallen heroes.

Go online and find out about the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. Both are supported entirely by donations and were formed to support military families in their times of team. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund provides grants to families of military personnel who have died. The gifts, $10,000 to each dependent family and $5,000 per child, are intended to help families through financial difficulties they are facing.

The Freedom Alliance has launched an injured service members campaign and is asking Americans to remember our veterans by sending gifts to their headquarters in Dulles, Va.

Expressions of support also can be made through the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services, Army Emergency Relief, Navy/Marine Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, Operation USO Care Package, Operation Give and Operation Dear Abby.

Holders of frequent flyer miles can donate their miles to help soldiers on leave from Iraq reach their destinations through Operation Hero Miles. Donations to the Pat Tillman Fund can be mailed to P.O. Box 20053, San Jose, CA 95160.

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