A True Man and American
This breaks my heart but shows you that there are still some great people in this world:
Ex-Football Star Killed in Afghanistan
By Charles Aldinger
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. professional football star Pat Tillman (news), who gave up a $3.6 million sports contract to join the military's elite special forces, has been killed in Afghanistan (news - web sites), U.S. officials said on Friday.
The officials, who asked not to be identified, said Tillman was killed on Thursday in an intense firefight in southeastern Afghanistan as his Army Ranger unit hunted for al Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas.
The 27-year-old soldier, who quit his National Football League career to fanfare in May of 2002, eight months after the Sept. 11 attacks on America, was the most prominent American public figure killed in fighting in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon (news - web sites) and the Army, in keeping with a law passed by Congress that forbids the military from identifying casualties until 24 hours after their deaths, refused comment on the report. But the White House said Tillman's family was in the prayers of President Bush (news - web sites).
"Pat Tillman was an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. His family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush," said a White House spokesman, Taylor Gross.
Enlisting with his brother, Kevin, in the wake of the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract from the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger for an annual salary of $18,000.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tillman played for four seasons with the Cardinals, from 1998 to 2001.
REMOTE SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
The U.S. military in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said on Friday that a soldier was killed and two wounded in a firefight near the village of Sperah southwest of Khost on Thursday after a patrol was ambushed. But it did not identify the dead soldier.
Paktia province, where the ambush took place, is one of several remote southeastern Afghan provinces at the heart of an insurgency led by remnants of the hard-line Islamic Taliban, which U.S.-led forces drove from power in late 2001.
There are 17,500 U.S. troops still serving in Afghanistan.
Tillman was selected by Arizona with the 226th pick of the 1998 football draft -- the league only selects 241 players -- but the Arizona State University star emerged from training camp as the Cardinals' starting strong safety on defense.
During his military training period after leaving the Cardinals, Tillman declined interviews with reporters and refused to take the spotlight.
"I am heartbroken today by the news of Pat Tillman's death," said U.S. Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona, himself a combat veteran who spent years in a prison camp in Vietnam.
He noted that other American families have suffered the same terrible sacrifice in combat.
"But there is in Pat Tillman's example - in his unexpected choice of duty to his country over the riches and other comforts of celebrity, and in his humility - such an inspiration to all of us to reclaim the essential public-spiritedness of Americans that many of us, in low moments, had worried was no longer our common distinguishing trait," McCain said.
Former Arizona Cardinals head football coach Dave McGinnis, a close friend of Tillman, said the former star had always shunned the limelight, "but his life deserves to be celebrated and his story to be told."
"Pat knew his purpose in life. He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling, which was to protect and defend our country," said McGinnis.