OUR OPINION: Others actions should not affect soldiers legacy

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2007

When we found out about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman during a firefight in Afghanistan in early 2004, it was one of those moments that bring our country together.

Here was a man who, instead of earning millions of dollars for playing a game and staying safe in a nice home while reaping all the benefits that come with being a star in a professional sports league, was willing to risk his life for something he felt was more important: defending the freedoms promised by the United States of America.

Tillman left the Arizona Cardinals football team in May 2002 to enlist in the Army and eventually became the first professional football player to die in combat since the Vietnam War.

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Then began the controversy.

Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal recommended Tillman for a Silver Star, which Tillman received posthumously, and various White House and Pentagon officials used the story of Tillman&8217;s death in speeches designed to stir up patriotism for what were becoming two domestically unpopular wars.

But investigations have pointed to Tillman actually dying from friendly fire, contrary to what was being relayed to the public via the executive branch. McChrystal, under oath in front of Pentagon investigators, said he tried to warn top officials that Tillman&8217;s death might not have come at the hands of the enemy, though McChrystal stood by his decision to recommend the soldier for the Silver Star, according to testimony obtained by The Associated Press.

We&8217;ll probably never know for sure how Tillman died or what happened in Washington, D.C., in the days following his death, but it is unfortunate that the death of a hero has turned into a political battle.

No matter the results of past, current or subsequent investigations, the thing to be remembered is that Tillman did what only the best of us are willing to do: He sacrificed his life for his country.