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04/26/2004 3:49 PM
Thought I’d take a moment and document the story of Matt Tillman for you young Kaitlyn. For who knows what the history books will say come your time to study American history. Assuming there is still an American history subject in your schools when you are in attendance, Kaitlyn Mae, as they hardly even teach the subject today. Thus your grandmother must document great events and great people as they happen lest you never know the truth granddaughter.
Matt Tillman was a football player, Kaitlyn. Now I don’t even like football and before this past week I never heard of Matt Tillman. I have learned that he was a young man of tender years, the same age as your mother as I write this, Kaitlyn. Matt Tillman is now dead, died at age 26 from wounds received during fighting in Afghanistan.
Before he left for the army, Kaitlyn, Matt Tillman had a 3.6 million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals locked up.
Yet he left it behind and joined the army.
Something greatly affected Matt Tillman by the attack on our country on 9/11/01, Kaitlyn. He watched his countrymen falling to their deaths from the mighty NY Twin Towers and nothing, not the money, not the fame, much mattered beyond what he felt he had to do.
Tillman did not even ask for the fame of the army, ordering army brass not to capitalize on the publicity of his enlistment and asking his family not to discuss his decision with the press.
Matt Tillman did what he had to do and I’ve been thinking about it all these past couple of days. I’m trying to get behind the hoopla of the press and the spin of the story.
For I’ve become jaded in my middle years, Kaitlyn, and have this endless desire to peak behind the motives of what would seem to be a purely good action.
The politicians taught me this, Kaitlyn.
Anyway, I am stopped cold by the actions of Matt Tillman and yes, I have allowed my mind to accept, however briefly, that there are truly good people in the world…STILL.
Matt Tillman should become an American hero of the likes of Nathan Hale. Who regretted, Kaitlyn, that he had but one life to give for his country just before they hanged him. Lest this factoid isn’t in your history books you must understand.
Sure, the arguments have raged, Kaitlyn, that all of America’s fallen soldiers are heroes on the level of Matt Tillman. But the fact that the pundits have to even say this over the air waves disproves that very statement.
Every soldier currently enlisted did not willingly leave behind a 3.6 million contract for essentially playing a game to earn $18,000 a year working perhaps the hardest and most dangerous job in the world.
I wouldn’t have done it, Kaitlyn.
You may think less of your grandmother for such an admission but your grandmother always tells you the truth my granddaughter.
Now I’d like to attribute noble intentions for my monetary largesse, Kaitlyn, assuming I had a contract for 3.6 million in my hand and the chance to join the army in the other. It’s a stretch but go with me Kaitlyn.
For I too was greatly moved by the events of September 11 on that fateful day. Had I been a young man and under the right circumstances, I am absolutely sure I would have joined the army my own self from the force of my sentiment at the time.
So it’s not like I don’t appreciate the deep emotion that came from watching my country being attacked and my countrymen killed. Yes, I would have joined the army right then, assuming I was a young man and assuming no other pressing obligations in my life.
Obligations such as a 3.6 million dollar football contract.
I know deep in my mercenary heart that I never would have did what Matt Tillman did.
Oh I may have justified my decision with some noble idea that I would contribute greatly to the USO with my largesse. Perhaps I would send elaborate “care” packages to the soldiers in the field.
But I never would have left that money, Kaitlyn, and frankly I still must wonder about Matt Tillman’s sanity. Should such a choice ever confront you my granddaughter, consult with your grandmother first before doing anything rash.
I can only conclude that Matt Tillman did what he did because he deeply believed in what he was doing. He loved his country and the attack upon it stirred something within him that wouldn’t be quelled by money or fame.
I can understand it, Kaitlyn. Because I like to think that no one loves this country more than your grandmother, Kaitlyn, and this love grows every day I see the plight of so many peoples across this planet in my time. IF the country was in danger of immediately being taken over by the crazy Muslims or that nut in Korea (future column on this, Kaitlyn) then I would fight back with all my might in a minute, even with my aging back and flowery mu-mu for uniform.
But under the circumstances existing during Matt Tillman’s time, the country was not currently under attack. The war on terror could have continued on just fine without Tillman is what I’m saying here. Under those circumstances, Kaitlyn, I would have kept the money.
Whether this makes me a lesser person than Matt Tillman is subject to debate. Every football currently playing did not eschew their handsome salaries to join the army. Every accountant or police officer or CEO didn’t walk away from their jobs to take up arms for that matter.
Matt Tillman was driven by an inner urge and after much thought, I have to grant him this.
He was an American, Kaitlyn, and because of young men like Tillman this country is the mightiest on the planet. It might be politically incorrect to mention this but the very first time the Iraqi security patrol went into action most of them either ran away from the battle or just switched sides!
American soldiers do not do this, Kaitlyn. Rare are the times when our army suffers a deserter, coward or traitor. The newly minted Iraqi “army”, Kaitlyn, trained for combat by the mightiest of American marines to defend their country when we would leave them on their own, didn’t have the conviction of our American soldiers.
I could take the low road and call these people natural cowards and I don’t know, perhaps they are. The truth is something a bit more complex I suspect. For Iraq is a newly freed country and as yet those fledgling Iraqi soldiers didn’t have as much of an “investment” in their country.
We have too much to lose in America to risk attack and takeover of our country. Our citizens, Kaitlyn, feel this way, witness your grandmother in her colorful mu-mu uniform and driving a tank.
The citizens of oppressed nations at best could care less if anyone takes over their government, at worst, like Iraq, welcome a conquering army. Citizens of a prosperous and free nation do NOT want any other country taking over control of their lives.
I always say you got to start somewhere, Kaitlyn, and right now America is trying to start with a newly liberated Iraq and give its citizens an investment in their country’s free survival.
Americans kind of like their setup, Kaitlyn, and have formed an impressive army to defend it. All of our citizens (well most, except the kooks) have something to lose if hostile armies conquer us. Which is why the United States has a dedicated army of volunteer soldiers financed by taxpayers very willing to pay the tab for our protection.
We have an investment in our own survival, Kaitlyn. Too many countries are ran by nasty despots who look out only for their own survival and luxury lifestyle.
Some of us are more moved than others to protect our country and frankly, those so moved are likely the ones more apt to serve it well. An army populated by aging grandmother’s with flowing mu-mus would be a sad sight indeed.
It’s about freedom of choice and capitalism and it’s a system that serves us well. Sometimes a keen mind or motivated heart is driven to buck the trend towards prosperity, feeling a stronger call to protect it for everyone.
Matt Tillman was just such a man, Kaitlyn, and he is a hero of our time. He should be in your history books but if not, then consider him forever remembered and admired in your grandmother’s tome to you.