Originally Published: May 17, 2004 7 a.m.
The question is not "Where do we get such men as Pat Tillman?" The question is "Do we have leaders worthy of such men?
This nation has produced men and women filled with the altruistic attributes of duty, honor and country every time there has been a call to arms. We all know of the "greatest generation."
We as a nation never completely honored those who displayed the same bravery in Korea, as if a lesser war demanded less courage. Vietnam was the war we lost, so many feel that those soldiers did not deserve our gratitude and respect as the true soldiers they were. Vietnam should be the classic reminder of our nation's ability to produce such men.
Each year for 10 years, our soldiers fought in the jungles, waterways and airspace in Vietnam. If a political solution was possible, our troops in Southeast Asia gave our government 10 years to win it. Political and military leadership is what was missing from our invasion of Vietnam. And, as always, it was our brave kids in uniform who paid the price.
We should remember Pat Tillman as a very special human being, athlete, soldier and patriot. But he is one of millions of us throughout our great history who answered the call to duty to put our lives on the line for a cause greater than ourselves.
We deserve better than to have disingenuous politicians and religious groups that wrap themselves in the flag on Memorial Day for personal or political gain patronize us. We deserve a country that produces citizens – and political, civic and business leaders – worthy of our sacrifice. The selfless and heroic sacrifice of Pat Tillman should elevate all of us and all who give their lives in hopes that their sacrifice will keep the country they love safe and prosperous.
Pat Tillman's death gives us pause to reflect on a great line from "Saving Private Ryan," "Earn this!"
Is everything we do as citizens worthy of the deaths of our fallen heroes? Have we earned the right to have people call us Americans? Could we look at those soldiers who died and say "thank you for protecting me, this is how I live my life in appreciation for all you have given and all that so many did on my behalf? Earn this."
That is what veterans ask of us. Remember the fallen and live a life worthy of their sacrifice.
(Joseph E. Brett served as a 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Army artillery in Vietnam in 1969-70. He resides in Prescott Valley.)