from Chandler, Arizona CPL Tillman served with: 2_75_Ranger_Bn Born in , Ranger Tillman was 27 years old at the time of his death in 2004.
Complete biography is below the photo gallery
CPL Patrick D. Tillman 's Biography
CPL Pat Tillman was killed April 22 when his patrol vehicle came under attack near Spera, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Hometown holds memorial service for Tillman
By May Wong
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Pat Tillman’s decision to walk away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to fight for his country made him a hero to some of the people he used to admire.
Many celebrities and politicians were among the approximately 3,000 people who came out in his hometown Monday to remember a man so moved by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that he left the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army.
“I was told he admired me but it’s the reverse ...,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter read by his wife, Maria Shriver. “Pat’s journey, that’s the American dream and he sacrificed that. That to me is a real hero.”
Schwarzenegger was in Germany meeting with U.S. troops and others on Monday.
Tillman, 27, died April 22 in Afghanistan in a firefight near the Pakistan border as he was leading his team to help comrades caught in an ambush. The Army gave few details of how Tillman was killed, but said he was fatally shot while fighting “without regard for his personal safety.”
Shriver said Tillman epitomized the message her uncle, John F. Kennedy, delivered in his presidential inauguration 43 years ago.
“My uncle once said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ You, Pat, have lived those words,” she said.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw, executive director of the players’ union, were among those who attended the public memorial at a municipal rose garden.
“The underlying thing was his courage and selflessness on the athletic field, in his community and now as a soldier,” Tagliabue told reporters before the service.
Last week, the military posthumously promoted Tillman, a member of the Army’s elite Ranger unit since 2002, from specialist to corporal. He also was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star.
“While many of us will be blessed to live a longer life, few of us will ever live a better one,” said Sen. John McCain. R-Ariz., who spent 5" years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. “He was a most honorable man.”
Though he never publicly offered reasons for his decision to join the Army, several friends have said the terrorist attacks affected him deeply.
“He wasn’t interested in headlines,” Upshaw said. “But he was interested in giving everything for a cause, whatever the cause may be.”
Tillman was assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and was based in Fort Lewis, Wash.
He was one of about 100 U.S. service members to have been killed in Afghanistan since the United States invaded in 2001. He is the first NFL player killed in combat since Buffalo offensive tackle Bob Kalsu died in the Vietnam War. Nineteen NFL players were killed in World War II.
Tillman posthumously promoted to corporal
PHOENIX — Pat Tillman, a former NFL player killed while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, was promoted posthumously from specialist to corporal, an Army spokeswoman said Thursday.
“The Army always notes that rank and promotion are not a reward of what was done well, but a recognition that you have the potential to do more,” said Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd. “This promotion is essentially saying he would have been a fine leader.”
Tillman, who walked away from a three-year, $3.6 million contract offer from the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army in 2002, was killed April 22 when the Army patrol was ambushed near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The promotion for Tillman was lateral, Rudd said, and will not affect any benefits his family receives. Both ranks are E4, or the fourth rank available for enlisted soldiers.
Although Tillman never publicly offered reasons for his decision, several friends have said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks affected him deeply.
Tillman was the first NFL player killed in combat since Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Bob Kalsu died in the Vietnam War in July 1970. Nineteen NFL players were killed in World War II.
The Cardinals have said they will retire Tillman’s No. 40 and name the plaza surrounding the team’s new stadium in suburban Glendale the “Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza.”
The University of Massachsetts campus in Amherst, meanwhile, has been roiled by a student’s newspaper column that said Tillman was not a hero but rather a “G.I. Joe guy who got what was coming to him.” Graduate student Rene Gonzalez also criticized America’s military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
UMass president Jack Wilson issued a statement saying the comments in The Daily Collegian on Wednesday were “a disgusting, arrogant and intellectually immature attack on a human being who died in service to his country.”
Gonzalez did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages left Thursday by The Associated Press, but in an e-mail to WBZ-TV he apologized to the Tillman family “for all the pain that my article has brought them.”
“I felt that his celebrity had been a factor in American society calling him a ‘hero,’ and I felt American society had arrived at that conclusion without much thinking, but rather as some sort of patriotic ‘knee-jerk’ into hero worship,” he wrote. “That was my point. I did it (admittedly) in such an insensitive way, that the article was not worth publishing.”
The newspaper’s editorial board ran a letter to readers in Thursday’s edition saying Gonzalez’s views do not reflect The Collegian’s opinion.
— Associated Press
Tillman family grieves in silence as soldier is brought home
PHOENIX — Pat Tillman’s grieving family has maintained its public silence and indicated it will do so for some time.
Tillman, the 27-year-old former football star who gave up his pro career to join the Army, was killed in combat Thursday in Afghanistan. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., when he was sent to Afghanistan.
In Tillman’s home town of San Jose, Calif., his father spoke to a reporter, although it was only to politely say the family would remain silent.
“We’re not really going to talk right now,” Patrick Tillman, a Bay area attorney, told The Arizona Republic. “I hope you understand.”
Asked if the family planned to issue a statement soon, Tillman responded, “No, we won’t be saying anything for quite a while.”
Meanwhile, funeral arrangements were pending for the former Arizona State University and Arizona Cardinals defensive star.
Military officials have arranged for the fallen soldier’s final journey home.
Tillman’s body will be sent directly to a military mortuary at Dover, bypassing the U.S. military’s medical facilities in Germany, where most casualties usually make their first stop, said Shari Lawrence, deputy public affairs officer for the Army Human Resources Command. Tillman’s body was expected to be sent over the weekend to Dover Air Force Base, Del., Lawrence said.
Spc. Kevin Tillman, like his brother an Airborne Ranger with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, will accompany the body home, Lawrence said.
Tillman stood out as a hard-hitting safety in the NFL, but at Fort Lewis he was just another Ranger.
Bryan Hannes , who left the Army last year after several years in the Ranger battalion, was a staff sergeant when the Tillman brothers arrived at Fort Lewis. Hannes said the sergeant major had made it clear that the Tillmans were to be treated just like everybody else.
“He was a private like everybody else was a private,” Hannes told The News Tribune of Tacoma. “But he definitely had a sense of maturity and dedication. You could see it in his face, in his eyes.”
ASU and the Arizona Cardinals announced the establishment of an annual business school scholarship in Tillman’s name.
ASU athletic director Gene Smith also said the Sun Devils will retire Tillman’s No. 42 jersey after the 2004 season.
The Cardinals said they will retire Tillman’s No. 40 and plan to name the plaza surrounding their new stadium under construction in suburban Glendale the “Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza.”
— Associated Press
Pat Tillman, former NFL player, killed in Afghanistan
By Matthew Cox, Times staff writer
Two years ago, Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative, professional football contract to serve his country. On April 22, he sacrificed the only thing he had left to give — his life.
The former Arizona Cardinals player was killed in action while serving with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan, according to news reports.
“Pat knew his purpose in life. He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling,” said former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis
At press time April 23, however, military officials said they could not confirm Tillman’s death. Defense Department spokesman Jim Turner explained that policy barred comment on casualties until 24 hours after family members have been notified.
The White House issued a statement of sympathy that praised Tillman as “an inspiration both on an off the football field,” The Associated Press reported.
Some 110 U.S. soldiers have died — 39 of them in combat — during Operation Enduring Freedom, which began in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Tillman, 27, shocked the sports world and the public two years ago when he walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the Army with his younger brother, Kevin.
Spc. Kevin Tillman, a former infielder in the Cleveland Indians’ minor league system, also is serving in the 2-75th.
The brothers, graduates of Arizona State University, took the oath of enlistment May 31, 2002, at a recruiting station in Chandler, Ariz., where Pat Tillman lived with his wife, Marie, who was his high-school sweetheart.
In college, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tillman was distinguished by his intelligence and appetite for rugged play. As an undersized linebacker at Arizona State, he was the Pac-10 conference’s defensive player of the year in 1997.He set a franchise record with 224 tackles in 2000 with the Cardinals.
McGinnis said he felt both overwhelming sorrow and tremendous pride in Tillman, who “represented all that was good in sports.”
Tillman’s agent, Frank Bauer, has called him a deep and clear thinker who never valued material things.
Several of Tillman’s friends have said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks influenced his decision to enlist.
According to ABC News, Tillman’s unit was out on patrol in a mountainous region on the Afghan-Pakistani border when the patrol was caught in a coordinated ambush. One enemy combatant was killed and Tillman was the only U.S. casualty, ABC reported.
Lt. Col. Matt Beevers, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, confirmed that a U.S. soldier was killed April 22, but would not say whether it was Tillman. He said the soldier died after a firefight with anti-coalition militia forces about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. base at Khost, which has been the scene of frequent attacks. Two other U.S. soldiers on the combat patrol were injured, and an Afghan soldier fighting alongside the Americans was killed.
Arizona Sen. John McCain noted Tillman declined to speak publicly about his decision to put his football career on hold.
“He viewed his decision as no more patriotic than that of his less fortunate, less renowned countrymen who loved our country enough to volunteer to defend her in a time of peril,” McCain said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Pat Tillman honored with Audie Murphy award
DECATUR, Ala. — Pat Tillman, who quit the NFL to join the Army and was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year, was posthumously given the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award.
The annual award, named for the most highly decorated U.S. soldier of World War II, was presented at a Fourth of July celebration Sunday.
The award was given to the newly formed Pat Tillman Foundation, created to carry on Tillman’s spirit by helping families of soldiers killed overseas.
Tillman’s brother-in-law, Alex Garwood, who is president of the foundation, accepted the award along with Tillman’s parents, Pat and Mary Tillman, who also attended.
“Pat would be very humbled by this,” Garwood said. “He first would say thank you. Then he would find the people who were responsible and look them in the eye and say thank you.”
Tillman, who gave up a $3.6 million pro football contract to become an Army Ranger, was shot to death on April 22. A military investigation concluded he likely was killed by fire from other U.S. troops.
Tillman was a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, headquartered at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Past winners of the patriotism award include World War II Gen. Omar Bradley; the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment for its service in Vietnam; former astronaut John Young; and the late country singer Johnny Cash.
— Associated Press
Dianna M. Nanez
The Arizona Republic
PAT TILLMAN ZOOM
Cpl. Pat Tillman is seen in a this 2003 file photo. (AP)
Former Army Ranger fears he may have shot Pat Tillman
One of Pat Tillman’s platoon-mates believes he might have fired the shots that killed the former NFL player turned Army Ranger in the 2004 friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan.
Steven Elliott, who sat down with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in his first interview since that day, has been living with guilt for 10 years.
“It is possible, in my mind, that I hit him,” Elliott said.
After an Army Humvee broke down in the mountainous region of southeast Afghanistan, Tillman’s platoon was ordered to remove it. They were split into two, but had trouble communicating with each other as they dealt with the terrain. One of the groups got caught in an ambush so Tillman’s group, who was up ahead, came back to help.
But a squad leader in the group under attack misidentified Tillman’s group’s vehicle and his Rangers opened fire, killing Tillman.
Per ESPN, the Army has either never determined or never released whose shots hit Tillman, but Elliott thinks it could have come from his weapon — a M240 Bravo machine gun.
“You aim at a point, and you fire a burst. You are holding your trigger for a fraction of a second, but that fraction of a second releases three to five rounds,” he said. “If it looked like you had [three] rounds and very close to one another, well, that was very consistent to how I was firing my weapon at that point. ... It would be disingenuous for me to say there is no way my rounds didn’t kill him, because my rounds very well could have.”
Elliott has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, gone through counseling, and reconnected with religion and family, and is in a better place now. But he continues to live with the guilt.
“If I could change what happened, I would change it in a heartbeat,” he said. “Change it in a heartbeat.” — Laken Litman, USA Today
SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Marie Tillman is sitting at her parents’ dining-room table, waiting for a morning-coffee boost to kick in. She’s surprised her baby is still asleep.
It’s early April, still too cold back home in Chicago. Marie and her husband, Joe Shenton, had boarded a plane to Northern California to visit her parents in Almaden, a quiet neighborhood in San Jose.
Here, it’s dripping wet from a recent rain but warm enough for a California girl.
Sitting in the morning light in the neighborhood where she grew up, Marie is at home in a life where the present is inseparable from the past.
From the backyard of the house, she can look down over Leland High School. It’s where she was a cheerleader, class of ‘94, where she was voted “best smile.” It’s where she first fell for a chatty football player, the one who was voted “most masculine.” His name was Pat Tillman.
Their teenage romance would last. Through Pat’s time playing football for Arizona State University, through his budding NFL career with the Cardinals, through his decision to become an Army Ranger, up until the April day 10 years ago when he was killed in Afghanistan, a victim of friendly fire.
In the eyes of the nation, the story of Pat Tillman the hero grew from admirable to epic.
For Marie, it was hard to understand the public mourning at first. Pat wasn’t an icon to her; he was her best friend.
“I struggled in the beginning with ... my feelings about him and other people’s feelings,” she says. Perfect strangers would tell her about how his life had a profound impact on theirs — even though they never knew her Pat.
In time, she says, she came to realize that they knew their own Pat. And she found a place in her life for both.
“I didn’t feel it’s my place to take that away from people,” she says. “That is a wonderful gift that he’s given to so many people.”
A foundation she and family and friends of Pat founded after he died launched a memorial run that has blossomed into a giant annual event. On Saturday, she’ll join her family and about 30,000 strangers in the 10th annual Pat’s Run in Tempe. The proceeds fund a college-scholarship foundation that has now helped put 290 veterans or their spouses through school.
Marie kept Pat Tillman’s last name.But in the 10 years since, she has built a new life.
She fell in love again. She got married again. She wrote a book about living through grief. Though she guarded her family’s privacy, as a new mom she was happy to go public two years ago with the news that she and her husband had had a baby — a boy they named Mac Patrick.
Now, on this early April morning in her hometown, Marie says she has found peace in the parts of the past that mix with the present: her role as the public face of the Pat Tillman Foundation with her private life as a wife and mother. The Pat Tillman she knew with the Pat Tillman the country remembers.
“For me, by being more open, it allowed me to have the freedom to have all of these things now in my life,” she said.
Life and loss
Marie played sports and ran the neighborhood with her brother and sister as a kid, here where wildflowers grow alongside tract homes with two-car garages.
Pat’s childhood was a few miles south and many steps wilder, where the valley floor climbs toward a place steeped in history but called New Almaden. Old wood-plank houses are reminiscent of its days as a mining camp for the mercury ore hidden in the hills.
“We both had sort of idyllic childhoods,” Marie says. “It was a very special place to grow up.”
Pat and Marie met in high school and stayed together even when college took Marie to the University of California-Santa Barbara and a football scholarship took Pat to Tempe.
After graduating, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. A pro contract meant Pat and Marie could finally share a home in Arizona.
Pat drove a beat-up truck and enrolled as a grad student at ASU to study history while he played. He proved himself in the NFL, and the St. Louis Rams offered him a lucrative contract in 2001. Loyal to the Cardinals coaches who had drafted him, Pat turned the offer down. He would stay in Arizona, with Marie. Then came Sept. 11.
Those who knew him, and interviews he did later, pointed to the day of the terrorist attacks as a pivotal moment.
In Marie’s book, “The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss & Life,” she wrote that they had already set a wedding date and were planning to start a family when he confided in her that he wanted to join the Army.
Marie wrote that they talked at length. She was scared but proud of the decision they made together.
Pat enlisted, with the intent of becoming a Ranger. His brother Kevin followed.
The country celebrated the story as one of patriotism: the football star who turned down the $3.6 million contract to become a soldier. But Marie knew Pat’s reasoning was more about fulfilling a purpose higher than a football career.
Marie and Pat married two months before he left for basic training in 2002. He went to Iraq, then to Afghanistan. On April 22, 2004, 10 years after they graduated from high school, Pat was killed.
On May 28, 2004, one day before their second wedding anniversary, Marie sat under a cathedral of redwood trees at San Jose’s Municipal Rose Garden, listening to Pat’s life memorialized. There, the story of his death was framed as a heroic battle with the enemy.
The Tillman family and Marie later fought for the release of reports that would uncover the truth.
The Army later revealed that Tillman’s death was the result of fratricide, and later investigations would point to a cover-up through the ranks. To this day, the full details remain unclear.
While the country grappled with Pat’s death, Marie, family and friends weighed his legacy. They created the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2004.
“There was this sort of outpouring of support from across the country and we wanted to channel that in a positive way,” Marie said.
As years passed, Marie says, sharing memories of her past with Pat helped her learn to live without him.
“The impact of his decisions and the way he lived his life and just ...who he was, affected many, many people,” she said. “(But) I can still have my relationship with him and my feelings about the impact that his life had on me and sort of bring all those things together.”
She found that her experience could help others through grief, which led her to write her book.
About the same time, she met Joe. He was an investment banker from Chicago. He had three boys from a previous marriage. She writes about their chance meeting in 2011 at a dinner with foundation supporters in Chicago. They shared an instant connection.
“Somehow I just knew that he got it,” she wrote, “that he saw through the story that surrounded me, and just saw me.”
Marie says Joe is her hero. They married in 2012.
“I give him so much credit for all of that,” she says. “He allows me to have all of these parts of my life out in the open because he wears the (Tillman Team) hat, he comes to the (Pat’s Run) event, he’s as big of a champion for the foundation as anyone.”
Marie says the book chronicles her journey past a time when Pat’s absence had left her empty with grief.
“What worked for me, was to sort of have it all out there,” she says. “I can go with my new family and we can go and participate in the run and the boys can wear their Tillman jerseys.”
Still a presence
In New Almaden, where Pat grew up, American flags and peace signs hang from cottages along the way to Almaden Quicksilver County Park. The community nestled into a wooded canyon was once home to California’s first mining operation. Today it’s a National Historic Landmark district.
The moist grass and wildflowers on the hillsides give up the smell of earth. These are the hills where Pat and his brothers played as children. This is where the people who knew Pat said he found sanctuary, peace and adventure.
Across the street from the park, the creek flows through a green meadow. A a lone picnic bench and a small stone memorial face the road. Carved into a bronze plate is Pat Tillman’s smiling face next to his jersey numbers, 42 with the ASU logo, 40 with the Cardinals. Other symbols mark his elementary, junior high and high schools, as well as the 75th Army Ranger Regiment.
There are three paragraphs. The first reads, “Pat lived in New Alamaden for most of his life. He came to love it for its history and community spirit. He roamed the hills with his brothers as a kid, then hiked and trained in them as an athlete and a soldier.” The bronze glints in the sunlight, hard and permanent.
A blue vase sits at the foot of the memorial, wrapped with a yellow ribbon, filled with a handful of yellow daffodils. The flowers are so fresh, their funnel-shaped petals still hold rainwater captured overnight.
In the moist sand next to them, someone has scratched out a fleeting message: “Hope. Faith. Love.”