Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman and the value of mythology

I originally wrote this essay as a way of dealing with the grief I was feeling after the death of Pat Tillman.  He's one of the few people I can honestly say has changed the way I look at life.  His example was instrumental in helping me decide to leave a safe, cushy job as a letter carrier, go back to school to get my Master's degree in Secondary Education, and start teaching at about half the salary I had been making (plus adding about 7 grand in student loan debt!).  Many people thought I was a fool, or worse, an idealist, for making this choice, but for me it was about waking up to who I am and challenging myself to become a better person. I wonder what those people must think of me now!  

Anyway, in pulling this one out of the vault, I wasn't sure how much editing it would require to prep it for posting.  Much more has been published about the aftermath of his death, and the investigation into the cover up.  I read Krakauer's book "Where Men Win Glory" and saw the movie "The Pat Tillman Story" (incidentally, both recommended), and so I expected much of the information to need updating or clarifying.  However,  after reading through it several times, about the only thing I changed was the word "daughter" to "daughters," because we added Maria to our family circle during the intermission.  Otherwise, I think it holds up pretty well as an expression of Pat's impact on me, and how I ultimately chose to respond to his death.

Most Americans first became aware of Pat Tillman when he left a successful career in professional football to join the Army following the attacks of September 11th, 2001.  Like many football fans in Arizona, I knew who Pat Tillman was long before then, when he was just a college freshman playing football at Arizona State University.  He was one of those players who drew your attention because he exuded intensity, passion and fierceness, and had a knack for making plays as a linebacker.  Reporters discovered that he was a reliable source for a good quote because he was often funny, sometimes brutal, but always honest in his comments about the game, the team, and himself.  As his college career progressed, Pat’s quirky personality and ways of expressing himself began to draw their own share of attention, with stories highlighting him appearing in the local paper, such as the enigmatic one of how he would climb to the top of the light towers at the stadium to meditate.  Other things about him became legendary even before he graduated from college.  When told by the coach that he wanted Tillman to redshirt (sit out) his freshman season, Pat responded that the coach could do whatever he wanted, but he was going to finish college in four years, no matter what.  A story surfaced from his high school days when his coach pulled him from a game at halftime, only to have him sneak onto the field at the start of the third quarter, receive the kickoff, and run it back for a touchdown.  He was infamous for his prodigious gift for profanity.  He was a key part of that magical ’96 season at ASU, with Jake Plummer at quarterback, when they beat Nebraska 19-0, went undefeated, played for the national championship in the Rose Bowl, and lost to Ohio State when their final drive came up short as time expired.  As a college football player he was exceptional, winning the PAC-10 honor of Defensive Player of the Year his senior season, but by then those of us who had been watching him had long known he was something special.
By the most fortunate of circumstances, Arizona football fans were able to keep their same privileged seats to watch him play football after college.  The then-hapless Arizona Cardinals drafted Pat Tillman in the final round, evidently as a goodwill gesture to the hometown fans.  It was reported that in his first workout for the team, he turned a cursory fifteen minute interview into a forty-five minute demonstration of his ability to learn and improve the drills.  I remember watching the TV news story of the first day of training camp.  Pat Tillman showed up riding a bicycle, pulling up alongside the flashy sports cars and enormous luxury SUVs of the other players.  He was dressed in shorts, tshirt, sunglasses and flip-flops.  That was Pat.  He was different, and he did things differently.  Although he was considered a long shot, by the time the football season started he had secured a position on the team.  It is curious to note, and possibly a fluke, that the Cardinals made and won a playoff game his rookie year, something which hadn’t been done by that team in fifty years.  Pat progressed to become a starting safety and soon became a fixture of the Cardinals defense, making himself into a very competent NFL player.  As a player free to sign with any team in 2000, he was offered a three year contract by the then NFL champion St. Louis Rams.  Pat declined, choosing instead to stay with the team that had given him his chance, even though it was for a fraction of the pay. 

I was watching when, shortly after September 11th, Pat Tillman spoke about his reaction to the events.  He spoke about previous generations and members of his own family who had served and sacrificed for their country.  I remember him, in his usual passionate, self-critical manner, comment that he “hadn’t done a damn thing.”  I recognized the resolution in his voice, the determination in his face; I had seen it before, although always connected in some way to the game of football.  Somehow, I was still surprised when shortly after that he announced that he was joining the Army’s Ranger program with his brother Kevin, who at the time had his own professional sports career as a minor league prospect of the Cleveland Indians.  My reaction to his announcement was ambivalent:  on the one hand I admired his courage and the strength of character required to change the entire course of his life so drastically, respected his integrity that he was willing to fight for something in which he believed, but on the other hand I felt the selfish sadness of not being able to watch him play football anymore.  But more than anything I was excited by what I thought was the affirmation of a greatness of spirit I had long suspected he possessed.  I remember thinking at the time:  he’s got to write a book about his life someday so I can read it.  Tied to that thought was as much a sense of anticipation for what he was going to do with the rest of his life as for what he had already done.  His motivation, his strong sense of integrity to himself, his way of looking at things, these were all qualities I wanted to understand better, some part of me needed to understand better.    

After joining the military, just when the nation was taking notice of the professional football player who was giving up his privileged life to defend his country, Pat Tillman stopped doing interviews.  In the last quote I remember reading, he said something to the effect that he was no different from anyone else who signed up to serve, and until they interviewed each and every soldier he had no further interest in speaking to the media.  And true to form, he didn’t.  Information about him quickly became murky, in most cases impossible to differentiate between speculation and fact.  There was a report in the paper that he had successfully completed his Ranger training, followed by suggestions as to when he might be shipping out and where he might be going, then rumors that he had been back several times and that he might have met with teammates in between tours of duty, along with other amorphous, incomplete bits of scuttlebutt between long periods of silence.   

On July 17th, 2004, Pat Tillman was shot and killed.  The news stunned me, saddened me in that same disbelieving way that the first space shuttle explosion had when I was in high school with the same weakening, inconsolable sense that something great had been lost, not just personally, but in a broader, public sense. I told my wife, and we stared at each other in mutual disbelief for a long moment, even as I related the sketchy information from the news report to her.  I couldn’t move, I didn’t want to move.  My mind was engaged for a long time in that painful, stubborn struggle of resistance between what we want to believe and the gradual concession to the inexorably tightening grip of reality.  When I did finally get up, I found a big permanent marker, took out my favorite ASU football shirt, and wrote “Thank you Pat” across the back, my eyes blurred by tears as I traced and retraced the letters.  I put it on.  It was a pathetic gesture, but in the moment, it was the only thing I could think of to do.

The army, in its initial report, indicated that Pat Tillman had died a hero.  The story they issued was that his unit was in a convoy in the rugged, contested terrain of the Afghanistan and Pakistan border.  One of the vehicles broke down, and it was decided that part of the unit should advance while the others attempted to get the vehicle moving.  Pat Tillman was part of the group that moved ahead.  The army stated that the stranded soldiers were ambushed and that Pat Tillman’s group responded, returning to provide support and cover.  They said he was killed by enemy fire while trying to rescue his fellow soldiers.  It wasn’t a hard story to sell.  The country wanted to believe, I know I wanted to believe, that if someone like Pat Tillman had to die, it could only be in a heroic manner.  It was the only way his death could make sense.  Pat was posthumously honored with a promotion and a Silver Star, for valor in combat.

As the weeks following his death went by, however, information began to leak out that contradicted the Army’s story, and eventually they were forced to recant their initial version of events. The truth, as it is now understood, reveals a very different story.  The convoy did break down and the unit did split up, with Pat Tillman’s group advancing towards the target area.  Believing there was trouble, Tillman’s group did return to provide support for the others.  Night was falling, radio communication was out between the two parts of the unit, and as they approached their stranded mates, they were taken for the enemy and fired on.  In the confusion, Pat Tillman was shot and killed by friendly fire.

Once the truth was known, the nature of Pat Tillman’s death was a hard fact to swallow.  We have come to expect our heroes, at least the Hollywood versions with which we are most familiar, to do more with their death scenes.  By choosing to leave professional football to serve his country, Pat Tillman had become a hero, a national symbol of self-sacrifice and a virtuous example of courageous citizenship.  For the majority of people who had only become aware of him when he first made headlines for his actions, I imagine the reaction to his death was one of genuine regret, sympathy and perhaps even a certain amount of sadness.  There seemed, however, to be more anger directed at the Army for misrepresenting the facts of the situation than mourning for the loss of a hero.  For my part, I was devastated, and it raised a whole series of disturbing questions.  What does it mean that he was cut down by our own soldiers?  What is the lesson to be learned?  That it isn’t worth it to be idealistic, to reach beyond yourself as Pat did because you might die in the ultimate example of futility, killed by your own side?  That the best of intentions can be wasted, that not only all the effort and hard work but your very life can be cancelled out by a comrade’s mistake in a moment of crisis?  And does it mean that my assessment of Pat Tillman as a hero was somehow wrong, that I made a mistake in attributing heroic qualities to him?  I’m not naïve enough to think that friendly fire doesn’t happen, and that good people aren’t killed that way, but heroes aren’t.  Heroes are supposed to find a way to somehow transcend the ugliest facts of war.  It’s much easier to accept when it happens to anonymous soldiers, it’s much easier to be philosophical about it, to say sympathetically, “That’s tragic, but you know, these things happen,” simultaneously acknowledging and dismissing the occurrence in one necessarily superficial platitude.  But what does it mean when a national hero meets such an end?  Heroes just don’t die that way, do they?

I struggled in the months following his death to sort out my own feelings about Pat Tillman and the way he died.  Leave it to Pat, I thought at one point, nonconformist that he was, to find a way to take people’s expectations of him and twist them one final time.  One thing I could not bring myself to truly doubt however, was that Pat Tillman’s death somehow changed how he lived, or that he had been one of the most extraordinary people that I had known, however distantly.  People’s attention moved on, attracted by the constant cascade of events, and I could sense his story already receding, fading into what I feared he would ultimately become in the national memory, a laudable sacrifice overshadowed by a minor Army scandal, an incident among many incidents that will be noted in a long and bloody war.  But I couldn’t let it go.  I couldn’t give in to the idea that his death might overwhelm the meaning of his life among people who didn’t have the opportunity to know him the way I did. 

At some point, I picked up a book of Greek mythology and began reading the ancient stories.  I had always loved reading mythology as a child, especially Greek mythology, and the stories were short enough that I could read them sporadically on my lunch breaks and not worry about losing any narrative continuity.  However, as I got to the section about ancient Greek heroes and read the story of Theseus’ life, there was a moment when with a slow, dawning awareness, Pat Tillman began to materialize in it.  It was strange and unexpected, but once I had the conscious thought I reread the entire story and it became more and more unmistakable to me:  I felt something that connected the personalities and characters of these two men.  I read through the story a third time, with an increasing interest born of an intuitive sense that I had found something important,  something I had been looking for, that I had found something that belonged to Pat Tillman. 

Before continuing, it might be appropriate to reacquaint readers with a highly condensed recounting of the story of Theseus’ life.  Theseus was raised by his mother in a small town, the son both of the god Poseidon, and Augeus, the king of Athens.  It is said that when Theseus was old enough to go to Athens to meet his mortal father, he refused the boat that was prepared for him, shunning its safety in favor of traveling overland.  Roads in those times were far more difficult and dangerous than traveling by sea; they were rough and strenuous routes, filled with bandits and criminals who preyed on travelers.  Those who could afford to travel by sea almost always did so, leaving the roads and their many dangers to those who couldn’t afford to avoid them.  Theseus chose to go by land because he wanted the challenge of facing those dangers.  He made his way to Athens, confronting and dispatching all who tried to waylay him, giving each a taste of their own medicine.  By the time he reached the city, word of his successes had preceded him and he was welcomed as a hero for making the road safe, winning the admiration of all the people of Athens even before they knew whose son he was.    

From that point on, Theseus’ life is essentially one unbroken string of adventures.  Upon hearing of the terrible curse placed on his father’s kingdom by Minos, the king of Crete who demanded the sacrifice of seven boys and seven girls to the bloodthirsty Minotaur, Theseus asked to take the place of one of the victims.  With the aid of Minos’ lovestruck daughter, he defeated the Minotaur and escaped the impossible maze of the Labyrinth.  Triumphant in his return to Athens, Theseus failed to change the ship’s flag from black to white, which was the prearranged signal to let his father know he was alive.  Upon seeing the dreaded black flag on the approaching ship, King Aegeus committed suicide by throwing himself off the cliffs into the sea.  As a result, in returning toAthens, Theseus became king.  According to Edith Hamilton, in her book Mythology, it is he who the Athenians credit with first creating a democracy in Athens, by refusing the kingship and instituting rule by the people, reserving only the title of king while maintaining a position akin to ‘commander in chief’ of Athens’ army.  Interestingly, this decision, while consistent with his fair-minded nature, allowed him the freedom to pursue future adventures unfettered by the burden of governing or the necessity of remaining close to the city.  He was able to give free reign to his restless desire for challenges, such as participating in some of the greatest exploits of all mythology.  Theseus was a member of the Argonauts, sailing with Jason and his company of heroes in their mission to obtain the Golden Fleece.  He took part in the hunt for the Calydonian boar, another all-star hero endeavor.  He invaded the land of the Amazons, capturing and marrying one of them, by whom he had a son named Hippolytus.  When the Amazons marched against the city in retaliation, his army defeated them at the gates of Athens, after which it is said no enemy dared to attack the city during his lifetime.  He defended the rights of the dead to proper burial by warring against and conquering Thebes, forcing them to return the slain “Seven Heroes.”  He did not sack or plunder the conquered city nor harm its citizens; he simply demanded the return of the dead so they could be properly buried and, once accomplished, returned with his army to Athens.  At his best friend Pirithous’ wedding, a fight broke out with the fabled Centaurs, invited guests who got drunk and tried to make off with the bride.  Theseus led the humans against the Centaurs, and succeeded in driving the whole race of half-horse, half-man from the land.  Upon the death of Pirithous’ bride, who was mortally wounded during the wedding skirmish, Pirithous decided to get his new bride from the lord of the dead, Hades, by stealing his wife Persephone.  Bound by an oath of friendship, Theseus joined him in this mission, and together they entered the underworld, a place where few heroes have ever gone as living men.  Hades knew of their planned treachery, and tricked them into sitting in two chairs, called the Chairs of Forgetfulness, which took away their memories and from which, once seated, they could not rise of their own power.  Theseus was eventually rescued by Hercules, while Pirithous could not be budged, even by Hercules’ strength, as Hades well knew which of them had been the truly guilty party.

As the events of his later life and death demonstrate, Theseus was not a stranger to tragedy.  The jealous goddess Aphrodite caused his third wife to fall hopelessly in love with Hippolytus, Theseus’ son by his Amazonian wife.  Her advances were strongly rebuffed and, unable to bear it, she killed herself.  The note she left behind blamed Hippolytus, and Theseus banished him from the city.  His son met with misfortunate, again at the hands of the gods, and was brought back dying to his father.  Only then did the goddess Artemis appear to explain that Hippolytus had done nothing wrong, and that the entire chain of events was the result of Aphrodite’s manipulations.  Theseus had to live the remainder of his life not only with the deaths of his wife and son, but with the knowledge that his son was innocent, that his death was needless and that his own unwillingness to listen to him contributed to the tragedy.  Theseus was eventually exiled from the city for reasons which are never clearly explained.  He went to stay with his friend King Lycomedes, who it is said subsequently betrayed and killed him.

Of course, the life of Pat Tillman cannot match the incredible nature of a mythological hero’s.  His challenges, adventures, and accomplishments are constrained by the limits of reality, although there are many who would argue that dominating in college football, succeeding in professional football, and becoming an elite soldier qualify as adventures of a sort and certainly as accomplishments of a very high order.  Obviously, it cannot be in the facts of their respective lives that a comparison can be made, for in Theseus’ case, it is impossible to determine what, if any, facts exist upon which to base a comparison.  Instead it is the character, and the quality of spirit, which bonded these two men in my mind, despite the distance of more than twenty-five hundred years, and the rise and fall of many generations of great men in between. 

In her preface to the story of his life, Edith Hamilton points out that Theseus, of all the great mythological figures, was the quintessentially Athenian hero.  The rest of Greece honored Hercules as the ultimate representation of the heroic ideal, but in Athens it was Theseus who held that position.  This was due, she points out, to his character, which combined strength and courage with great intelligence.  Hercules, of course, was unmatched in strength, and few, if any, could equal him in courage.  But intelligence wasn’t his greatest asset, and throughout his life he was, in many ways, a victim of his passions.  Theseus, on the other hand, possessed both great strength and great courage, but was also the most intelligent of all the heroes that Greece ever knew, and Athenians prized intelligence equally with strength and courage.  

In his own right, Pat Tillman was highly intelligent.  He was said to be extremely well read and possessed a great capacity for knowledge.  According to friends and family, he was intensely curious and passionately interested in the thoughts and opinions of others.  In his college career, he was considered one of the nation’s best student athletes, graduating in less than four years with a 3.84 grade point average, and was recognized with academic as well as athletic awards.  The balanced relationship between the qualities of intelligence, strength, and courage is striking in its resemblance to that which the Athenians cherished in the character of Theseus. 

Pat Tillman, like Theseus, thrived on challenges.  His need to constantly seek out challenges, to continually improve, and to test his mettle was a pattern obvious even to someone following him from a distance.  Watching him play football, both in college and professionally, it was impossible not to come to the conclusion that his reason for being there had more to do with the challenges it presented than about winning or losing.  Football was his chosen manner of testing himself, of teaching himself about himself.  That this transcended his need to win is evidenced by the choices he made.  It’s not that Pat Tillman never knew what winning felt like; as mentioned, ASU’s football team went undefeated his junior year, and was within a few minutes of winning a national championship.  And it’s not that he didn’t hate losing, for which his on-field intensity and his passionate post-loss, profanity-laden commentaries were proof.  But to say that winning was his top priority I think could be misleading.  The example of his choosing to remain with the Cardinals when offered a vastly superior contract by a better team epitomizes this.  The choice was his to leave a team that was a perennial loser, with one playoff year in the last forty, to go to a team which had just won the Super Bowl, and was positioned to challenge for it again and again in the coming years.  Not only that, but he would’ve been paid far more to do so than to stay where he was.  And yet, despite the attractions of winning and the vastly superior opportunities for increased fame and fortune, he turned it down.  Pat Tillman wasn’t just about winning, and he wasn’t about money.  He was demonstrating loyalty, rising to a challenge, and above all, doing something truly unique with his life. 

Even the challenges of the football field weren’t sufficient for Pat.  I remember reading in the paper that he ran in a marathon during one off season, and then the next it was a triathalon.  Of course he didn’t win either of them, but I can’t help but think that for him it wasn’t about where he finished, it was about meeting some internal measurement of himself, of his ceaseless effort to find the limits of his greatness.  And these are representative only of those challenges which were conducted with some unsought degree of publicity; I have to believe and can only imagine that there were a multitude of ways in which he tested himself throughout his life which were more private in nature, occurring in arenas that aren’t reported on by newspapers.       

There can be no doubt that the events of Sept. 11th, 2001, shook him to his core and changed the direction of his life.  It was as if those events were a catalyst for his character, accelerating the pace of change and fueling a rapid expansion of his sense of himself, his sense of responsibility, and his place in the world.  It seemed to me as if he could no longer be content just being a football player, as if the challenges the game represented had almost instantaneously been diminished, perhaps nearly to the point of irrelevance.  September 11th was a challenge dropped suddenly upon him, as it was for all of us.  His keen mind quickly assessed its significance, and with courage and strength of character he committed himself to do what he thought it required of him, leaving the relative comfort and privilege of professional football and becoming a front line soldier.  In a way, it can be seen as a modern day equivalent of Theseus spurning the safety of the boat in favor of taking the overland route toAthens.  They were kindred actions, born of a kindred character and spirit.  Perhaps the biggest difference is that Theseus successfully arrived in Athens and went on to live out his greatness in full; Pat Tillman died on the road to Athens, falling before the way could be cleared of all its troubles.  To those who didn’t know him, what he has left behind is the merely human record of his deeds, the striking accomplishments of a short yet eventful life.  But without an understanding of the greatness of spirit which animated the man and produced the record, at best it can only be a superficial account, like trying to explain a man’s life from the clothes in his closet. 

Mythology, by its nature, reflects the belief that stories can tell us things mere facts cannot.  Perhaps in telling the story of Theseus, the Greeks were really attempting to illustrate the extraordinary spirit of a certain person, or a certain kind of person, rather than the actual circumstances of his life.  If that’s true, then perhaps there was a man like Theseus who did great things, sought great challenges, and showed great courage, great strength, and great intelligence.  And perhaps these qualities so far exceeded those of the typical human landscape that the Greeks felt compelled to translate him to a mythological one, where he could battle a world filled with terrible, unearthly creatures and contend with gods, in order to reveal, and better exemplify, the quality and magnitude of that spirit.  If that is the case, then mythology should still hold some value to us today, because there still are people whose spirit far outshines the mere facts of their existence, and who deserve to be remembered by stories that match their true greatness.          

The Greeks also have something to teach us about the deaths of heroes.  More often than not, their heroes didn’t die peacefully of natural causes after a long life.  The manner of death is often tragic, sometimes inexplicably incongruous, or even absurd from our perspective.  Hercules, that greatest of Greek heroes, dies a horrible death when he puts on a cloak that has been treated with centaur’s blood, which causes his skin to burn and leaves him in prolonged, excruciating agony until he can finally effect his own death by constructing his own funeral pyre.  Achilles, that greatest of Greek heroes in the Trojan War, is killed by an arrow striking him in the heel, his only vulnerable spot.  Orion the hunter is killed when Artemis is tricked by her jealous brother Apollo into shooting him in the head with an arrow.  Jason is said to have died many years after his quest by a falling timber from his ship, the Argo.       

These examples suggest several things about the way the Greeks viewed their heroes and death.  First of all, the Greeks recognized that their heroes must die.  This is not, perhaps, as obvious a statement as it appears.  Consider our contemporary American perspective regarding heroes and death.  I would argue that our modern mythology is based on the premise that death can be defeated, or at least avoided indefinitely.  We whole-heartedly believe, for instance, that Luke Skywalker can destroy the Death Star, that Rocky will always get up from the mat one more time, that Indiana Jones will find yet another ingenious way to cheat death, or bully his way through it by the exertion of sheer willpower.  Similarly, the modern mythology of superheroes such as Spiderman, Superman and Batman is remarkable not only because of their supernatural powers, but because not only do they not die, nor do they substantially age; they simply fight endless iterations of the same fight from an eternally similar starting point of their lives.  We may value our heroes for their qualities, abilities or personalities, admire them for their intelligence, strength, determination, or other reasons, but flowing underneath is an unconscious cultural belief in the hero’s genius to overcome, or evade, death.   

For the ancient Greeks, however, there was no thought of overcoming death; they couldn’t even conceive of such an idea for themselves.  And since their heroes were of a human nature, they did not question whether they must die.  Even those who were half-god and half-man, such as Hercules, had to experience the death of the human body before his eternal self could take its place on Olympus.  The Greeks had a word for what separated them from the infinite gods:  “thnetos”, or mortal.  At that time, ‘mortal’ wasn’t a clichéd word used mockingly, spoken by invading aliens in low budget movies or by wrathful villains in comic books; it was an essential acknowledgement of who they were, a basic admission of their identity.  If you could ask an ancient Greek and a modern American to list the things that made them a human, ‘mortal’ likely would be near or at the top of the Greek’s list, and near or at the bottom of the American’s, if the American happened to think of it at all.  This difference shows just how radically dissimilar our perspectives are regarding death, and leaves one to wonder which reflects a better understanding of reality.   

The second thing Greek mythology suggests about heroes and death is that the manner in which a hero dies is unrelated to his greatness.  The manner of death, as long as it wasn’t dishonorable, is of secondary, or even trivial significance.  The ancient Greeks did not feel compelled to romanticize the deaths of their heroes; they did not seek to make their deaths appear glorious, or sacrificial, or to assume a greater spiritual significance.  They knew all too well that death could come from anywhere, at any time, by any number of means.  As seen in the examples mentioned above, the causes of death could be anything from sheer treachery, to a conk on the head, to the tragic results of a simple misunderstanding.  Importantly, they are all perfectly valid manners of death for their heroes.  None does anything to diminish the life, the greatness, or the strength of spirit that existed in that person.  As a result, if the deaths of their heroes sometimes seem to our modern sensibilities anticlimactic, almost irrelevant, as if tacked on as an afterthought, it is because the Greeks took the value of their heroes from the way they lived, and not the way they died.  The circumstances of their deaths were not held against them.    

Maybe the highest praise I can pay to Pat Tillman, the thing which best demonstrates the impact his life and spirit have had on my life and spirit, is that I want my two daughters to know who he was.  Of all the political leaders that have come and gone so far in my lifetime, the celebrities who have filed past and continue to file past in one endless procession, the sports heroes, the wealthy, the powerful, it is Pat that I want to tell them about.   There are others, but none whom I have personally witnessed from so close, even as distant as it was.  This is the task I have set for myself, to find to way to tell my daughters about Pat Tillman.  If I am successful, they will understand what courage is, as well as what it is like to be insatiably curious about the world and the people around them.  But above all, they will know the example of someone whose integrity, whose desire to know himself, and whose passion for challenges has rarely been equaled.  Like the ancient Greeks, I have felt the fundamental, undeniable desire to commemorate a person whose intrinsic qualities, whose greatness of spirit, required that he be remembered.  Pat Tillman may not have lived long enough to have earned a place in our collective mythology, but I cannot doubt that he possessed the realness of a heroic heart.  It is my firm belief that the heroes of ancient Greece would have instantly recognized him for a brother, allowed him to sail as a shipmate on the Argo, and perhaps even allowed him a soldier’s role on the battlefield of Troy.