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Throughout History, America’s Many Pat Tillmans
by Vincent Fiore
29 April 2004

There is nothing trivial about the Pat Tillmans and Nathan Bruckenthals that define America, and the patriotism they exhibited by laying down their lives for the simple love of country.


Patriotism is the willingness to kill and
be killed for trivial reasons.

--Bertrand Russell

The above words of deceased English mathematician and noted pacifist Bertrand Russell tend to convey a seamless neatness when discussing the value of patriotism in relation to war and the deaths that come with it. But the words are vulgar, and they are lacking. There is nothing “trivial” about the deaths of America’s service personnel.

The men and women who wear the uniform of the U.S. Military know what serious business war is. The soldiers that serve in Iraq and Afghanistan know one thing: To complete the mission, they must win. And while America watches the waging of this war by these warriors of courage and honor, a face flashes by that on occasion, we all recognize.

Army Ranger Pat Tillman put a face on the war on terrorism when he was killed on April 22 in Southeastern Afghanistan. Most knew Tillman as a football player for the NFL Arizona Cardinals. In June 2002, Tillman walked away from a three-year, 3.6 million dollar contract with the Cardinals in order to satisfy his need to serve his country. By all accounts, Tillman was deeply influenced by the attacks of 9/11, and set out to do what so many have done since: He voluntarily put himself in harm’s way for his country.

For many, the death of Pat Tillman has made the war even more personal than before, if that is possible for anyone living in this country on September 11, 2001. Sometimes, it takes the death of a Pat Tillman to shake the consciousness of America to what it was during the aftermath of September 11. The war against terrorism can at times seem very distant, and cause a disconnect and almost a complacency.

To the other 800-plus family members who have lost loved ones in this war, Pat Tillman is no different than their own. There was no difference when Johnny Spann became the first American killed on November 25, 2001 in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. There was no difference when Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Waters-Bey, Cpl. Brian Kennedy, Capt. Ryan Beaupre, and Maj. Jay Aubin, became the first casualties of the Iraq war, killed on March 21, 2003 when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Kuwait.

Nor was it any different for the family of the latest identified casualty in the war against terror, Nathan Bruckenthal of Long Island, New York. Petty officer Bruckenthal, 24, was killed on April 24 in a suicide bombing attack in the Persian Gulf. He was the first U.S. Coast Guard casualty since the Vietnam War.

These men and every casualty suffered during the trials and tragedies of war have names and faces that all Americans should know, if only in memorial and prayer.  Like the Pat Tillmans, the generally unknown Nathan Bruckenthals are genuine heroes as well. Nathan Bruckenthal uncle stated: “We’re standing by my hero nephew.”

Sacrifice is what has made the U.S. armed forces the most lethal and committed force since the legions of Rome. Americans have witnessed this principled sacrifice, even among the more famous among us, in generations past.

In the early spring of 1942, New York Yankee star Joe DiMaggio volunteered for the Army. Soon to follow was Boston’s “splendid splinter” Ted Williams, who voluntarily enrolled in the Naval Aviation Academy in November 1942. The sense of duty to country exhibited by the “Greatest Generation,” the WWII generation, had long thought to be a thing of the past. Magnificently rekindled in today’s generation, the Pat Tillmans and Nathan Bruckenthals tell us otherwise.

In the coming weeks, the Arizona Cardinals will name a plaza in honor of Pat Tillman at the new 355 million dollar football stadium that he never had a chance to play in. It will forever be known as “Pat Tillman Plaza.” Still, the great multitude of Americans will not know him for a plaza. They will simply know him as “Hero” It is how America knows all its fallen.

Speaking for myself, I believe as the great patriot Thomas Paine believed: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

So to Bertrand Russell I would say if I could, that “trivial” is what you apply to a presidential candidate who does not seem to know the difference between a “medal” and a “ribbon,” and whether he threw them over the White House fence or not.

But there is nothing trivial about the Tillmans and Bruckenthals that define America, and the patriotism they exhibited by laying down their lives for the simple love of country. They, and their brethren, have our eternal love and thanks, and are sorely missed.

Vincent Fiore contributes commentary for several web sites on a weekly basis, and occasionally has commentary posted on NewsMax.com. Your comments are always welcomed.

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