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A makeshift memorial was set up in front of the Cardinal's training facility on at Kyrene and Warner Roads in Tempe on April 24.  4-04.

Tillman, Pat

(1976.11.06-2004.04.22)  NFL football player;  U.S. Army Ranger.

Graduated summa cum laude from ASU with a marketing degree (3.84 grade point average) in 1977; linebacker for the Sun Devils

Drafted by NFL's Arizona Cardinals in 1998 and played through the 2001 season; set a franchise record with 223 tackles in 2000

Money never played a big role in Pat Tillman's life choices.  In 2001, his loyalty to the Cardinals caused him to choose a one-year $512,000 deal with the Cards over a $9 million five-year offer from the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.  At the end of that contract in May 2002, the Cardinals offered their record holder for tackles a three-year $3.6 million contract as a safety.  Tillman let coach Dave McGinnis know that he would not be signing with the Cardinals.  Instead he would be signing a three-year enlistment contract with the U.S. Army with starting pay of less than $15,000 a year.

A second memorial in front of Sun Devil Stadium where Tillman had played as a Sun Devil and a Cardinal received a steady stream of visitors.  4-04.

The seeds of that decision were sown on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center collapsed in a terrorist attack.  The next day Tillman told a television reporter, "My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor, and a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars, and I really haven't done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that, so I have a great deal of respect for those that have and what the flag stands for."

When his contract with the Cardinals ended, Pat and his brother Kevin, a minor league baseball player, traded their team uniforms for Army green.  They began basic training on July 8, 2002.  Following basic Pat moved on to be certified as an Airborne parachutist and then entered the Ranger Indoctrination Program with his brother.  In February 2003 he and his brother were deployed with the 75th Ranger Regiment in the Middle East in Operation Iraqui Freedom.

Regular Army soldiers conduct a patrol in Daychopan Province, Afghanistan, searching the area for Taliban fighters and illegal weapons caches.  Photo by SSG Kyle Davis 9-12-03 courtesy of U.S. Army [www.army.mil].

The brothers returned stateside in June 2003 and began a three-month training program as an elite Ranger.  In December 2003, just before the brothers were to be deployed in Afghanistan, Pat stayed with the Cardinals at their team hotel in Seattle, visiting with them before and after the game.

Operation Mountain Storm.  On Thursday, April 22, 2004, Tillman was the group leader in a combat patrol in mountainous region of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.  The patrol was part of Operation Mountain Storm.  That operation had the objective of destroying the organizational elements and infrastructure of the al-Qaida terrorist organization--and the hope of finding al-Qaida head Osama bin Laden and some of his top deputies who were believed to be hiding in the region.

Tillman's group was the lead group in a ground assault convey traversing cavernous terrain.  The terrain left no room for the group to maneuver making it what the army describes as a "kill zone."  Tillman's group had moved safely out of the area when the trailing group came under mortar and small arms fire. 

The Silver Star
U.S. Army Individual Decorations

Medal of Honor - conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life
Distinguished Service Cross - extraordinary heroism
Distinguished Service Medal - exceptionally meritorious service
Silver Star (pictured to the left) - gallantry in action
Legion of Merit - exceptionally meritorious conduct
Distinguished Flying Cross - heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight
Soldier's Medal - heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy
Bronze Star Medal - heroic or meritorious achievement or service
Meritorious Service Medal - outstanding meritorious achievement or service
Air Medal - meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight
Army Commendation Medal - heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service
Army Achievement Medal - meritorious service or achievement

Tillman's heroic action coming to the aid of the trailing group would earn him a Silver Star.  He ordered his group out of their vehicles and up a hill to engage the enemy.  At the crest of the hill, Tillman returned fire with his M249, a light-weight machine gun. The army's award announcement states, ��Through the firing Tillman�s voice was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground."  It continues, ��Only after his team engaged the well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished."

With the intervention of Tillman's group, the second group was able to move out of the kill zone without casualty.  Tillman was shot and killed.  His platoon leader was one of two other Americans wounded.  An Afghan soldier assisting the Rangers was also killed.

The army's announcement of Tillman's death startled the valley and the nation.  It was the lead story in national news reports on television, radio, and in newspapers.  The news dominated Arizona newspapers for the next several days.  Makeshift memorials were set up at the Cardinal's training facility in Tempe, and at Sun Devil Stadium where Tillman had played as a Sun Devil and a Cardinal.  ASU announced that they would be retiring Tillman's number 42, and the Cardinals said that they would retire his number 40.

The NFL in arms.  It is not unheard of for NFL players to take up arms in defense of their country.  But, the death of professional athletes in the military is decidedly unusual.  When it was the norm for sports figures, actors and other celebrities to enlist during World War II, 638 former National Football League players served.  19 were killed.  During the much less popular war in Vietnam, one NFL player lost his life.

Books about Arizona from amazon.com
Arizona For Dummies(r), 2nd Edition by Edie Jarolim
Arizona Goes to War: The Home Front and the Front Lines During World War II by Brad Melton (Editor), Dean Smith (Editor), Marshall Trimble (Introduction), John S. McCain
Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael P. Ghiglieri, Thomas M. Myers
Roadside History of Arizona (Roadside History Series) by Marshall Trimble, Joe Beeler
Arizona: A Cavalcade of History by Marshall Trimble
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