Just when we thought we had a pure and simple hero, a millionaire athlete who gave up wealth and fame to become the ideal patriot, to make the ultimate sacrifice, his friends and family complicated everything. They turned Pat Tillman into a human being Monday, showing us what was really lost during that ambush in Afghanistan, insisting that we question every assumption we’ve made since he died an icon on April 22.
Yes, there were uplifting tales, moments when tears and pride swelled in everyone watching Tillman’s memorial service at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. There were jarring moments, too, and they carried the message of the afternoon “challenge yourself” more powerfully than those laden with conventional inspiration.
Tillman’s youngest brother, Rich, wore a rumpled white T-shirt, no jacket, no tie, no collar, and immediately swore into the microphone. He hadn’t written anything, he said, and with the starkest honesty, he asked mourners to hold their spiritual bromides.
“Pat isn’t with God,” he said. “He’s f ing dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s f ing dead.”
Tillman talked about everything, with everyone. According to the speakers, he had read the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and he underlined passages constantly. Garwood recalled how he’d mail articles to friends, highlighting certain parts and writing in the margins: “Let’s discuss.” A quotation from Emerson, found underlined in Tillman’s readings, adorned the program.
It concluded with this: “But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
…the problem with That Cartoon is that it reads as more of an attack on this guy than on the forces that treated his life as disposable. That’s an important distinction.