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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]


An American Soldier
Pat Tillman’s Life and Death Exemplify Why We Fight
[Carol Platt Liebau] 4/26/04

Last Friday was a typically beautiful southern California day – warm sun, cool air and deep blue sky, punctuated by bursts of color from flowers of all kinds. Nature’s glorious opulence somehow seemed at odds with the sad news from Afghanistan – Army Sergeant Ranger Pat Tillman had been killed in combat.

News of any battlefield casualty is sad. Each name of the fallen represents one more American who will never hug wife or parent or sweetheart again, never look on a child’s face, never celebrate life’s triumphs or mourn its tragedies. Each name represents an empty place forever at the Thanksgiving table, or at Christmas dinner, or at someone’s birthday party. All are heroes, who deserve America’s eternal thanks and gratitude.

But the news of Tillman’s death carries special poignancy, because of who he was and what he gave up to defend his country. As many know, Tillman was an Arizona Cardinals safety, who, after a stellar career at Arizona State, gave up a three-year, $3.6 million contract in 2002 to enlist in the Army, with hopes of becoming a Ranger. When he enlisted, he was a newlywed, leaving behind his bride, Marie, to enter the Army with his younger brother, Kevin.

In a world that often seems to value celebrity and money above all else, Tillman’s decision commands respect. In an age when 200 kindergartners compete for 12 spaces in an elite private school – and acceptance at an Ivy League college is defined as the pinnacle of accomplishment – Tillman’s priorities, and his willingness to act upon them, are profoundly humbling.

Above all, the story of Pat Tillman’s life and the way he chose to lead it is profoundly inspiring. He understood what was at stake after September 11 – America’s very way of life – and decided that he himself was compelled to step forward to defend it. He could have stayed home and done what he loved – playing football – and living the good life. No one could have faulted him for it. But he chose another course. Even when he entered the Army, he could have allowed himself to be singled out, rationalizing that his celebrity would serve as a recruiting tool. Instead, he refused all media interviews, and aspired only to become an Army Ranger.

Days like last Friday, poignant and grief-filled, are the inevitable concomitants of wartime. In the midst of them, there are those who would tell us that losing young men like Pat Tillman is simply too high a price to pay.

But they are wrong. The lesson of Pat Tillman’s life isn’t that fighting for America comes at too terrible a cost. A country that can produce young men like Pat Tillman – despite its sometimes poisonous politics and its too-often degraded culture – is worth the blood and sweat and tears that come with defending it.

In many important ways, Pat Tillman stands as the ultimate repudiation of the Al Qaeda fighter, who risks embraces nihilism and death out of an all-encompassing hatred for those he calls his enemies. Tillman didn’t fight out of hatred; he fought out of love – love of country, and love for the Americans he defended. In doing so, he defended America’s highest ideals and followed in the footsteps that left blood in the snow at Valley Forge.

However many dark days and setbacks we suffer in the war on terror, the good, brave people like Pat Tillman stand as our guarantee that, ultimately, America will triumph. And through the heartache his family now suffers, his life stands as a beacon illuminating the meaning of selfless sacrifice.

Those of us at home do so little compared to the work of our soldiers fighting bravely in far-away lands. But there is an important role for us. In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln said at Gettysburg:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...

We honor Pat Tillman and all those who are defending us by keeping the faith, and ensuring that our own commitment to the defense of freedom and truth and justice remains strong and true. Thank you, Army Sergeant Ranger Tillman.

God bless you and all your compatriots who fight for America.

CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA.

copyright 2004


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