Originally Published: April 26, 2004 7 a.m.
On Thursday night in a firefight between an Army Ranger patrol and Afghan rebels near the military base at Khost, the 39th American soldier died in Operation Enduring Freedom.
This soldier's death dominated the headlines Friday for good reason. He was Pat Tillman, who turned down a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals in May of 2002 to become an Army Ranger.
He never uttered a word about it publicly. Even when he came home on leave this past December, he avoided reporters.
His position as a sergeant in the Army Rangers paid $18,000 a year along with plenty of hardship and the risk of the fate that befell him Thursday night.
Being in the NFL is no picnic, but it's nothing compared to the lot of a soldier in the Middle East these days.
Pat Tillman was definitely a news story, because of who he was and the amount of money he gave up along with the job that American boys dream about.
Although he was unique, he also was like the 38 soldiers who died before him in Afghanistan and the 509 Americans who have died in hostile action in Iraq.
They, too, left their jobs and their families to do their duty in the war against terrorism.
In the film "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," the skipper of an aircraft carrier that just lost a top pilot and the crew of a rescue helicopter asks rhetorically, "Where do we get such men?"
Fortunately for us, America still has a lot of them.