- Category : 1976-births
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (16)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sphinx 4
American athlete, a pro football player who gave up a lucrative pro football contract to join the military. His death in combat was initially touted as a hero’s death while fighting the enemy but was later categorized as death from friendly fire. Military investigations revealed that evidence had been destroyed and details covered up in initial reports of his death.
The oldest of three brothers, Tillman graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State in December 1997 with a marketing degree and a 3.84 grade-point average. An all-around athlete and avid rock climber, he enjoyed physical challenges and played football for the school. One story reports that he sometimes climbed the football field light towers that reach 200 feet into the air. He claimed that the perch on top made a good place to meditate. On the field, he was known as a hard-hitting wild man though he was undersized for a linebacker. Determined to play pro football, his dream came true in April 1998 when he was drafted by the Cardinals in the seventh round. In 2000 he broke the team's record for tackles. Coaches wanted him to slow down but he continued his streak of moving fast and furiously and hitting hard. Just for the challenge, he completed a marathon in 2000 and competed in a triathlon in 2001. In 2001, Tillman turned down a $9 million, five-year offer from another team, St. Louis Rams, who had just won a Super Bowl championship. Instead he stayed with the Cardinals where he earned less money, citing his loyalty to the team that had given him his start in the NFL.
But in 2002, he left the team, giving up his $3.6 million contract to join the military. His friends said he had been so deeply touched by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US that he wanted to serve his wounded country. Shortly after returning from his honeymoon with his high school sweetheart, Marie Ugenti, he enlisted in the Army on May 31, 2002. Earning his coveted assignment in the operations unit of the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite infantry unit, he refused all interviews. He did not want any special attention or favors while serving his country.
After an assignment in Iraq, he was sent to Afghanistan. In 2003, he and his brother Kevin, who had enlisted with him, were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. They declined to attend the ceremony. On April 22, 2004, Pat and his comrades were sent on parole. Tillman was killed that day near Sperah, Afghanistan (about 26 miles southwest of Khowst) at about 7:30 PM local time. Soon after his death he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions in leading his team up a hill during intense fighting "without regard for personal safety." He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and promoted from Specialist to Corporal.
Five weeks after his death, on May 29, 2004, the Army revealed that Tillman was most likely killed by friendly fire. Details were not forthcoming, however and his parents began a campaign to learn the truth about their son’s death. Nearly a year later, in mid-April 2005, the army completed a second investigation based on probing questions raised by Tillman’s family. In May 2005 an Army spokesperson came forward with the news that not only had Pat been killed by fellow soldiers but also that the army had kept the news secret for weeks and had even destroyed evidence such as his battle gear. Later, a Pentagon report found “gross negligence” by fellow Rangers was the cause of his death. The report determined that Rangers had accidentally fired on him as he tried to signal that he was not the enemy.
His family has been publicly critical of the army’s handling of Tillman’s death. In October 2006 his brother Kevin posted on the Internet an essay critical of the war. He wrote that it was “an illegal invasion” and denounced American leadership for stealing “the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground." On April 24, 2007, his brother Kevin appeared in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington. Kevin accused the Bush administration and the Pentagon of fraud, saying that the military knew almost immediately that Corporal Tillman had been killed accidentally by members of his own unit. He added that officials chose to put a “patriotic glow” on his death and that the decision to award his brother a Silver Star and to report a heroic death fighting the enemy was “utter fiction” intended to “exploit Pat’s death.”