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Army Ranger Pat Tillman remembered on 16th anniversary of his death

Then-Specialist Pat Tillman, right, a former Arizona Cardinal, walks next to Captain Christoper Deale, company commander of B Company 1st BN 19th Infantry Regiment, during graduation ceremonies on October 25, 2002 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan. (mvw) 2004. (MIKE HASKEY/COLUMBUS LEDGER-ENQUIRER/TNS)
April 22, 2020

Today is the 16th 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 on April 22, 2004, when he was hit by friendly fire – a grave mistake not known until after an investigation.

“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.

Tributes to Tillman spread on social media on Wednesday, an annual tradition that keeps his memory alive.

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.

“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.

The foundation typically holds an annual run in Tillman’s honor, but due to this year’s coronavirus pandemic, the run on Saturday was featured as a “virtual run” which involved supporters filming their own memorial walks and runs and sharing photos online.

“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 in 2014, 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.