Today is the 17th 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 fact discovered after an investigation.
The NFL tweeted, “17 years ago, we lost Pat Tillman. This is what motivated a hero. (via @AZCardinals).
Before joining the NFL, Tillam played football for Arizona State University. ASU tweeted, “17 years gone, but never forgotten. Pat Tillman will always have a special place in Sun Devil hearts: A leader, teammate, student, friend. #PT42.”
“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.
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.
In 2019, the Arizona Cardinals shared a video tribute to Tillman.
Tillman’s family also started the Pat Tillman foundation in his honor.
“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 foundation.
The foundation regularly sponsors charity events and scholarships bearing his name.
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 soldier.