Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Tillman is famous; all are heroes


Everyone can agree that Pat Tillman represents the quintessential American hero: honorable, brave and compassionate.

He was a walk-on football player in college at Arizona State University, and an overachieving safety with National Football League's Arizona Cardinals. The life of a pro football player seems charmed. But the 9-11 terror attacks rocked him. He turned down millions - including a $9 million offer to join the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams - and in 2001 left his career to try out for the Army's elite Ranger fighting force. He made it.

The nation learned that Tillman died Thursday in a firefight in Afghanistan. This past weekend, his story was in newspapers and on television.

He deserves a high place of reverence, yes, but so do all of the men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's important not to forget them. This is not to slight Tillman, and not a criticism of the media for their saturation coverage of his incredible story. His life is the stuff of which books are written and films are made.

One teammate described him as "Forrest Gump with smarts." Tillman had no desire to hog the spotlight. In fact, when he left pro football, he and his brother drove to Denver to join the Army in obscurity. He declined media interviews and wasn't heard about publicly until last week's tragic news.

He always said he was no greater than the next soldier. He was right. It didn't take long for us to be reminded of that.

During the Tillman news cycle this weekend, nine more American troops were killed in Iraq in a suicide bombing and a rocket attack on coalition forces in Baghdad. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in northeast Baghdad Monday in a huge explosion while looking for a suspected maker of chemical weapons. There was more fighting in Fallujah on Monday in which a coalition soldier was killed.

As of Monday, according to CNN.com, there have been 826 coalition deaths in the Iraq war, including 721 Americans and 59 Britons.

At home, residents still are praying for the safe return of Pfc. Matt Maupin of Clermont County's Union Township, who has been captured by Iraqi insurgents and remains a hostage.

Thousands of troops deployed in Iraq recently were told their tours of duty would be extended at least an extra three months in response to a surge in fighting. They surely miss their families and friends, but they also volunteered to serve their country - just as Tillman did. He would have been the first to tell you that.

All of them are heroes. They deserve our sincere thanks, sympathy, prayers and encouragement.

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