Sunday, Dec. 19, 2004

Pat Tillman

PLAYING FOR KEEPS In the grim accounting of the military, Pat Tillman's death is just one entry on a list of more than 1,200 U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he was no ordinary soldier. As one of the better defensive backs in the National Football League, Tillman was paid handsomely to prevent flyboy wideouts from tap dancing into the end zone. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, however, Tillman felt there were more important things he could be doing with his life. He quietly left the Arizona Cardinals and became a U.S. Army Ranger. Specialist Tillman soon journeyed deep into the Afghan wilderness to hunt the Taliban and al-Qaeda. On April 22 of this year, in some nameless mountain canyon near the Pakistan border, Tillman was killed by friendly fire. It was not the glorious death the Army might have wished for such an outsize enlistee. But mistakes happen in the chaos of combat and, in every war, they kill good men. Pat Tillman was one of them.