Today is the 18th 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.
Tillman’s 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. The Cardinals tweeted in honor of Tillman on Friday with a photo showing the statue and a rose, alongside the caption, “We miss you every day.”
In 2019, the Arizona Cardinals shared a video tribute to Tillman.
Before joining the NFL, Tillman played football for Arizona State University’s Sun Devils. The university tweeted to recognize Tillman on Friday, pointing to the campus Veterans Center, the annual Pat Tillman run, and the football team’s tradition of touching his statue before playing a home game, as ways of “keeping his memory alive every day.”
The team also tweeted in honor of Tillman, saying “18 years ago today, we lost a hero. Rest in peace, Pat Tillman.”
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.
Tillman’s family also started the Pat Tillman Foundation in his honor.
“Today, we remember Pat Tillman, who lost his life serving his country 18 years ago. Pat’s life, principles, and service are his legacy and every day, the Pat Tillman Foundation works to carry out that legacy,” the foundation tweeted on Friday.
“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,” Tillman told a reporter one day after the 9/11 attacks, according to the Pat Tillman Foundation.
“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 also 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.