Today is the 15th anniversary of U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s death.
Former NFL player Pat Tillman left his professional football career behind to enlist in the U.S. Army after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He served with the 75th Ranger Regiment from June 2002 until he was killed less than two years later when he was hit by friendly fire – a grave mistake not known until after an investigation.
“Somewhere inside, we hear a voice. It leads us in the direction of who we wish to become. But it is up to us whether or not to follow,” Tillman was quoted as saying by the Pat Tillman Foundation.
“15 years ago today Pat Tillman lost his life serving in Afghanistan. Here’s to the man who followed his true calling, and the Tillman Scholars now carrying on his legacy,” the foundation added.
Several others took to social media to pay tribute.
“We lost a true hero 15 years ago today. Rest in peace, Pat Tillman,” the NFL tweeted.
We lost a true hero 15 years ago today.
Rest in peace, Pat Tillman. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/ITPKwzzysy
— NFL (@NFL) April 22, 2019
“On this day in 2004, we lost the great Pat Tillman,” Sports Illustrated tweeted.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 22, 2019
“Today we remember the life and legacy of Pat Tillman, who lost his life 15 years ago,” the Arizona Cardinals tweeted.
Today we remember the life and legacy of Pat Tillman, who lost his life 15 years ago. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/3XliavoOeO
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) April 22, 2019
“Today is the 15th anniversary of Pat Tillman’s death. My champion. RIP,” sports writer and editor Jeff Risdon tweeted.
Today is the 15th anniversary of Pat Tillman’s death. My champion. RIP.
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) April 22, 2019
Many have paid tribute in other ways. Tillman was one of two names memorialized in a Hoover Dam bypass bridge crossing the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada.
His number on the Arizona Cardinals NFL team was retired, and the stadium plaza was named in his memory. A statue was also revealed in his honor.
Tillman’s family created the Pat Tillman Foundation to support individuals striving to improve their lives, and it regularly sponsors charity events and scholarships bearing his name.
“We’re worthless…. We’re actors,” Tillman reportedly said in an NFL locker room after the 9/11 terror attacks, Sports Illustrated had reported in 2004.
“At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed. A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing,” he told a reporter one day after the 9/11 attacks, according to the Pat Tillman Foundation.
The soldier who mistakenly pulled the trigger on Tillman spoke out five years ago, saying he was haunted by his actions.
Steven Elliot, a former Army Ranger, told NPR at the time that he suffered from alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and his marriage fell apart – all from the “unresolved emptiness and hurt” resulting from unknowingly firing on a fellow troop.