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Friday, April 23, 2004

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R.I.P. Pat Tillman, a Son of Liberty

Pat Tillman represents the best of America, and that's why he has our respect and our tears. No honest person can question his motives, not when he gave up fame and fortune to risk his life defending both his freedom and ours. He gives us confidence that our society has not become too self-absorbed or too decadent or too fearful to survive -- not while we can still produce heroes like Pat Tillman.

Pat's story also illustrates one of the most important yet least mentioned reasons why this country must never again institute conscription: because it cheapens and undermines the nature of our military forces. With an all-volunteer military, we know that the young men and women who put their lives on the line do so of their own free will.

Consider Pat Tillman's story if in some alternate universe he had been drafted into the Army Rangers. Sure, he might have insisted that he was perfectly willing to go and would have signed up anyway, but who would have believed him? Who would have really believed that he didn't mind sacrificing $3.6 million and the adulation of football fans to fight and maybe die in a far-away country? It would have been dismissed as PR bullshit. And when he did die, many people would have mouthed pious words of regret while secretly wondering whether he was just some rich and pampered athlete who couldn't cut it on a real battlefield.

Dead conscripted soldiers are victims. Dead volunteer soldiers are heroes.

As to what his memorial should be, I think "Pat Tillman Stadium" is a slam dunk. And don't give me any nonsense about stadium naming rights being too valuable. If it's a matter of money, the public relations value of "Pat Tillman" far exceeds anything the Arizona Cardinals might gain by auctioning off the name. The Cardinals suck as a football team, and right now they can't fill their own stadium (unless they host a team like Green Bay, which will stuff it with Packers fans). But the Cardinals would sell thousands of additional season tickets in a Pat Tillman Stadium, while building team loyalty and support among Arizona fans.

Within a matter of days (or hours?), public pressure will force the team management to embrace the name change. And Pat will be remembered anew every time another football game is played there.








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