August 27, 2007
If Pat Tillman Was a
Hero, What About All These People?
Atlas shrugged three
years ago when one of the greatest tragedies in modern American military
history struck: Pat Tillman, football-player-turned-Army Ranger, died in
Afghanistan from friendly fire. Pat Tillman is often called a hero.
The term "hero" has
been cheapened and overused, although few can actually define it.
American Heritage Dictionary defines "hero" as
a person noted for feats of courage or
nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or
her life. This fits all our service men and women, although it seems
that some people are more heroic than others.
Hundreds of U.S.
soldiers passing in the line of duty not that interesting apparently.
Thousands coming home to find no employment possibilities and no medical
treatment options interesting to some, mostly NPR listeners.
But leaving a small
town in the rust belt to join the armed forces to pay for community
college and then taking a bullet for the governments mistaken foreign
policy does not make you a hero. Leaving sunny Arizona and a
million-dollar contract does.
I'm not denying that
what happened to Tillman is heartbreaking. But that's because it
happened to another human being, not another human being who looked
handsome in Sports Illustrated photographs. His sacrifice is no
less, but no greater than that given by nameless kids from across the
Foundation, set up soon after Pat's death, provides scholarships for
students from several San Jose area high schools as well as Arizona
State University, Tillman's alma mater. Perhaps as an ASU student I
should be proud to be affiliated with his legacy or my friends who were
honored by the Foundation as Tillman Scholars.
Yet sitting here in
the middle of the Hayden Library and reading a detailed account of
Tillman's widow's first public speech in our school's World/Nation
section she shifted her weight from foot to foot, tucked her long hair
behind her ear and with a dimpled smile began, in case you wished to
know I had a strong distaste in my mouth.
I'll leave the
journalistic integrity issues aside for now and ask: Who the hell cares?
Are Mrs. Tillman's
dimples really that newsworthy? What about the impatient weight shifting
of the four-year-old girl who's watching the calendar every day to see
when daddy comes home? Is she not cute, not rich and not white? Damn.
decision to leave his life of opportunity for duty is exemplary.
Nevertheless, this mind-blowing concept of a privileged golden boy is
not necessarily an exception. Even our fun-loving school has produced
other examples of men choosing patriotic duty. One example is senior
Cole Hickman, who put his political science degree and Democratic
leadership position on hold to serve his country, giving his allegiance
to our principles, not our administration.
untimely and unnecessary death brought much-needed attention to the
absurdity of the conflict, the endeavors took a wrong turn, courtesy of
the dimple-loving media for the most part. Pat Tillman is an excellent
example of a man who put patriotism before profit. Yet instead of
singling him out, we ought to acknowledge that there are many who also
gave up comfort, security and the tempting option of apathy to serve.
© 2007 North Star
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