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Honoring Sacrifice, Inspiring Leadership

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Five years ago this week, Pat Tillman was travelling with his unit through the dangerous mountain passes of eastern Afghanistan.  The football star from Arizona State had put his NFL career on hold to join his brother and enlist in the elite Army Rangers.  Already a veteran of one tour in Iraq, Pat Tillman was serving a second tour of duty in less than two years.  Incoming fire signified the start of an ambush.   In the heat of battle, as Tillman rushed to provide cover for his fellow soldiers, friendly fire tragically took his life.

I still remember my shock when I heard the news of Pat Tillman’s death.  For me, like so many people, he represented the best of America.  Tillman was a hero not just because of how he died, but because of how he lived. He gave up a world of comfort and safety, not to mention the fame and fortune of a professional football career, to pick up a rifle and put on a uniform. His service and his sacrifice are an inspiration – and the American people have not forgotten him.

In Tempe, AZ this Saturday, next weekend in San Jose, CA, and in shadow runs throughout Afghanistan, over 25,000 people will celebrate Tillman’s life and his legacy by participating in Pat’s Run.  IAVA will be leading the charge.  We are an official sponsor of the race, which raises funds to support the Pat Tillman Foundation’s scholarship programs for young leaders.  Team IAVA is bringing over 100 recent veterans and their families to run the 4.2-mile course (Pat wore #42 in college). 

 Team IAVA at Pat's Run 2008 in Tempe, AZ


One IAVA veteran participating this year is Cara Hammer, an Army veteran who spent a year serving in Tikrit, then a bastion of support for Saddam Hussein and one of the flashpoints of the Iraqi insurgency.  After returning from her year in Iraq, she enrolled in college, and is currently a full-time student studying Family and Human Development at Arizona State University, Pat Tillman’s alma mater.  This is her second year taking part in Pat’s Run, an experience she calls a great honor.

It’s an honor for IAVA, as well.  Seven and a half years after the attacks that inspired Pat Tillman to join the Army Rangers, we are still fighting in Afghanistan.  And more troops are being sent there every day.  We must honor the sacrifices of our troops and their families, and ensure that each and every one of them receives the support that they have earned. 

Pat’s Run is a great opportunity for Americans to honor the courage, leadership and sacrifice of an extraordinary soldier – and to help future leaders attain their dreams through the Pat Tillman Foundation.  Even as the media chooses to focus on Madonna’s custody battles and Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, I am proud to see so many people remembering what is truly important. 

It’s not too late to be a part of Pat’s Run.  You can be a part of this historic event by signing up to run, to volunteer, or to cheer on the participants – or by making a donation directly to the Tillman Foundation

If you’re not in Tempe or San Jose, that’s no reason not to get involved.  If you want to learn more about local events like these, text ‘Heroes’ to 69866.

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