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Michael Nevin Jr. - Contributor

Michael Nevin Jr. is a 3rd generation California law enforcement officer and freelance writer. Mike's writing explores many topics ranging from the War on Terror to issues facing America's police officers. Mike is a contributing writer for several Internet websites including ChronWatch, American Daily, Renew, and Men's News Daily. He can be contacted at [go to Nevin index]

Pigskin Patriots
In Praise of Two American Soldiers...
[Michael Nevin Jr.] 6/2/04

First Lieutenant Jack Lummus was a rifle platoon leader attached to E Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division. The 29-year old Lummus was a defensive lineman with the New York Giants and former All-American at Baylor University, before joining the Marines one month after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On March 8, 1945, Lt. Lummus bravely led his men during the epic battle of Iwo Jima. Lummus single-handedly took out three heavily fortified enemy positions before succumbing to an enemy land mine that blew off both his legs. President Harry S. Truman posthumously awarded him the nation’s highest honor—the Congressional Medal of Honor. The citation reads: “Determined to crush all resistance, he led his men indomitably, personally, attacking foxholes and spider-traps with his carbine and systematically reducing the fanatic opposition until, stepping on a land mine, he sustained fatal wounds. By his outstanding valor, skilled tactics and tenacious perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, First Lieutenant Lummus had inspired his stouthearted Marines to continue the relentless drive northward, thereby contributing materially to the success of his company's mission.”

Shortly before he died during treatment for his wounds, Lummus reportedly quipped, “Doc, it looks like the New York Giants have lost a damn good end.” He was still smiling as he closed his eyes.

Pat Tillman was an undersized linebacker out of Arizona State University drafted in the seventh-round by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998. He quickly became a premier safety in the NFL, but all that would change after the terrorist attack on September 11. Pat Tillman, along with his brother Kevin, enlisted in the Army several months following the attack.

Doing so meant that Pat Tillman would turn down a three-year, $3.6 million offer from the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers, at a salary of $18,000 a year. This should come as no surprise to any trained observer who followed Tillman’s football career. In 2001, he passed on a $9 million offer from the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to the team that drafted him. Tillman, as we would later find out, understood loyalty as well as any man could.

Army Ranger Specialist Pat Tillman, 27, was assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He was deployed in southeastern Afghanistan hunting al Qaeda and Taliban forces. On April 22, 2004, Tillman led his elite unit to the rescue of other Rangers caught in a “kill zone.” Tillman was shot and killed during the attack. Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and promoted from specialist to corporal.

“Through the firing Tillman’s voice was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground,” the Army announced. “Only after his team engaged the well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished. As a result of his leadership and his team’s efforts, the platoon trail section was able to maneuver through the ambush to positions of safety without a single casualty,” according to the Army announcement.

Jack Lummus and Pat Tillman would have made great friends. Although these men were born generations apart, they were cut from the same cloth. Each understood the importance of duty when their nation faced crisis. As they did during their playing careers, they chose a life away from the sidelines, a life with combat units that guaranteed them action on the battlefield.

But there are stark differences between the times in which they served. Lummus was one of many professional sports stars in his day to trade in his jersey for a rifle. A total of 638 professional football players served during World War II and 19 died for their country. Tillman was an anomaly.

This may be because America has not completely come to grips with the War on Terror. It is a new, asymmetrical war unlike any other conflict in our history, as we are called to confront a faceless enemy. Public opinion polls suggest that many Americans suffer from a serious case of ambiguity. One can only pray that we find a cure to this malady in the very near future.

Major General Joseph Warren was an important figure during the American Revolution, who put his medical practice on hold to lead American forces into battle. And as President of the Massachusetts Congress, Warren said to his fellow Americans, “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of.... On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”

First Lieutenant Lummis and Corporal Tillman lived up to this admonition, and it is because of men like these "Pigskin Patriots" that Memorial Day is more than another excuse to fire up the grill. It is a time for Americans to reflect and give thanks to the valiant souls who gave their lives for our country. Freedom isn’t free. Each generation must be willing to defend it -- or all of us must become willing to live without it. CRO

copyright 2004 Michael Nevin Jr.




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