Tillman's Is A Story That Must Be Told

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At least one reader has expressed his opinion that too much has been written about the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. He reasons that if Pat had been a plumber or an auto mechanic and died fighting for his country, not much would be written.

While I respect his opinion, I don't agree.

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Rich Wolfe has penned a fascinating biography that is simply entitled "Pat Tillman."

Personally, the death of Pat Tillman put a face on all the brave young men and women who have fought in the military. I personally don't know any other soldiers who have fought and died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But, Pat Tillman was somebody we all seemed to know. We watched him at Camp Tontozona, in Sun Devil Stadium and on television as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

In celebrating the life and contributions of Pat Tillman, we also honor all of the other brave soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The story of Pat Tillman should be repeatedly told to our youth. As a former public school teacher and coach of 37 years, I'm certain his legacy can positively influence teenagers.

Too many stories are written about the overpaid, pampered, spoiled-rotten, ungrateful professional athletes who live their lives on the fringe. Instant gratification and selfishness are the messages they send to young people

Pat Tillman, however, was a true role model. He lived a life of perseverance, passion, loyalty, patriotism, honesty, scholarship and accountability. When he made the decision to give up a million-dollar professional football contract to join America's team, he shied away from publicity and resisted all media coverage.

In his death, we are just learning that the story of his life makes us want to be better people.

Thank God we in journalism have stories like Pat Tillman's to write.

A gift

My son, Gerry, recently gave me a newly published book simply entitled "Pat Tillman."

I picked it up Sunday afternoon and found it so spellbinding I couldn't put it down until I finished it.

I defy anyone to read it without a tear spilling down their cheek, a shiver traveling up their spine and an occasional grin gracing their face.

The book is a series of recollections about the life of Tillman from his friends, teammates, coaches and fans.

Author Rich Wolfe dedicated it "To all the men and women who have ever served in the United States Military."

Among those who are quoted in the book is former Payson High School football coach Dan Dunn.

He wrote about Tillman, "I don't think there will be a coach at any level who won't use him as an example of how to live your life. I don't think it's possible there will be a coach out there who won't, at one point or another, use him as an example of the way you should try and do things. It goes beyond coaching and playing football -- it goes to style of life. The kids will listen because he was a football player, but the message should be heard by all. He did things that you strive to get people to believe in and the way we do things."

Another contributor wrote "Pat Tillman has inspired me to become a better man, a better person."

A sailor serving in Kuwait, in support of Iraqi Freedom II, wrote, "his story has been inspiring and well-followed by many of us ever since he enlisted. He chose to serve and exhibited the honor and bravery that makes the stuff of legends."

Dr. Joseph Chavez, pastor of the Phoenix Inner City Church wrote, "Pat Tillman's story should speak to the youth of America, especially, to say, ‘Here's a hole this guy left. You too can make a similar difference in people's lives.' All of us can raise our standards, our levels. That alone preaches a thousand sermons."

Senator John McCain wrote, "(Enlisting in the Army) was his uncommon choice of duty to his country over the profession he loved and the riches and comforts of celebrity, and his humility that make Pat Tillman's life such a welcome lesson in the true meaning of courage and honor ... I never had the honor of meeting Pat Tillman and I'm the poorer for it."

Among my favorites in the book is portion of the eulogy that former Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis gave during a celebration of Tillman's life held last spring in Sun Devil stadium.

I remember it vividly.

Under the blazing sun, on the 50-yard line of Frank Kush Field and with Tillman's family looking on, McGinnis boomed as only football coaches can do:

"Now I ask you, don't look anymore with your eyes, look with your heart. That lump you feel in your throat right now? That's Pat. Those tears in your eyes right now? That's Pat. That sense of pride you feel welling in your chest and wanting to burst out of every pore of your body? That's Pat. That's the gift he gave us."

The story of Pat Tillman must be told over and over. That's our duty.

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