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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tillman’s memory deserves honesty

    Michael HustonColumnist
    Michael Huston

    April 22 will mark the second anniversary of the death of Pat Tillman, the former Arizona State football player who played for the Arizona Cardinals for four years before giving up a lucrative $3.6 million contract to volunteer for the Army Rangers.

    Pat’s story has been widely publicized since his death because Americans can’t help but be moved by his decision to give up a life most people could only dream about in order to become a soldier.

    Of course, with all due respect to Tillman, his story and sacrifice aren’t that much more special than those of any of the millions of American soldiers who have given up their jobs, their time with their families and their lives to protect our way of life from those who would destroy it.

    If you were to ask Pat Tillman if he thought he was remarkable for giving up an NFL career to become a soldier, he would probably tell you that he was just like everybody else and that his decision to give up a couple million dollars wasn’t any more significant than the decision of his platoon-mate to leave behind his wife and young daughter.

    Tillman deserves every bit of honor he has received for his actions, as does every other person who has given up a comfortable life at home and risked everything to fight for our nation.

    What Tillman and his family really deserve is an honest account of the events of his last day.

    With men in the world like Zacarias Moussaoui, who declared at his trial recently that he has spent every moment of the last 10 years thinking of ways to kill Americans, we should be more thankful than ever for brave Americans like Pat Tillman and all those in the armed forces.

    Yet for all his heroism and his iconic status to so many, there is still a dark shroud surrounding the death of Pat Tillman that dishonors his memory, and sadly, the army has done little to correct it.

    Though the public’s understanding of the actual events that led to the death of Pat Tillman is limited, it is generally accepted that Tillman was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire from his own unit.

    Reports indicate that Tillman and another soldier took an aerial vantage point to help secure the evacuation of the rest of his ambushed unit from a narrow canyon.

    The retreating soldiers likely mistook Tillman for part of that ambush and responded with a barrage of bullets that led to the death of the former Cardinal.

    But all of this is greatly speculative, and the Army has refused to provide Tillman’s parents, friends or fans with a concrete account of what happened in the Afghan canyon that day.

    Despite calls for an open and honest investigation from Tillman’s parents, NFL stars and various congressional leaders, the army has treated the matter as “”sensitive”” and released only a minimal amount of information to the public.

    One likely explanation for this is that Tillman’s death was avoidable and caused by poor decision making by certain officers on the field, a situation the Army is naturally not proud of and hesitant to take responsibility for.

    In war, mistakes are made, commanders sometimes make bad choices and good soldiers sometimes die who didn’t have to. These tragedies don’t make the army or the war unjust, but military leaders should be big enough to admit when their officers screw up and do wrong.

    Although the army has tried to honor Tillman’s memory by posthumously awarding him various medals and a rank advancement for his service, what Tillman and his family really deserve is an honest account of the events of his last day.

    Pat Tillman deserves to be remembered as a model of American courage, so let’s hope the Army honors his memory by showing some of that same courage and accepts blame where it’s due.

    Michael Huston is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at

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