Tag Archives: Pat Tillman

2013 American of the Year: Ted Cruz

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The junior U.S. Senator from the great state of Texas, Ted Cruz, has been selected as this website’s 10th annual American of the Year, marking the first time that someone born outside of the country has been so honored.

Cruz was born in Canada, in the city of Calgary and province of Alberta in December of 1970 to a Cuban father and American mother from Delaware who were there to work the oil business.

Cruz’ parents moved to Houston, Texas in 1974, and he went to a Baptist high school, becoming Valedictorian of his 1988 graduating class. He then went to Princeton University, where he became a debate champion and noted speaker, graduating in 1992. He then attended Harvard Law School where he graduated magna cum laude, while also dealing with his parents divorce during this time.

In 1995, Cruz served in Virginia as law clerk to a true, great conservative jurist, J. Michael Luttig of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and in 1996 became the first Hispanic to clerk for the Chief Justice of the US when he worked for William Rehnquist.

After working a few years in private practice, Cruz joined the presidential campaign of George W. Bush in 1999 as a domestic policy advisor, and was influential in the court process during the contested Florida election results battle at both the state and Supreme Court levels. This led to a role in the victorious Bush administration for a few years before a return to Texas.

During the Bush campaign, Cruz met his wife, Heidi Nelson, a New York investment banker who would go on to work for Condoleezza Rice at the White House and who now works for Goldman Sachs. They now have two daughters together.

From 2003 to 2008, Cruz served as Solicitor General of Texas, arguing numerous cases before the US Supreme Court including landmark victories in which he stood up for 2nd Amendment rights, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, and on behalf of a Ten Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol.

Cruz returned to private practice from 2008 until his surprising Senatorial election battle of 2011. In what was described as a stunning grass-roots victory for fiscal conservatism, he defeated the sitting Lieutenant Governor and heir apparent. He then trounced his Democratic opponent in the November general election.

In the last few months, a poll by the respected Rasmussen organization found that Ted Cruz was the 3rd most influential world leader, following behind only President Barack Obama and Pope Francis. That position comes squarely from his emerging leadership as the most forceful, outspoken critic of what are proving to be disastrous liberal political programs, policies and ideas.

Particularly in 2013, Cruz emerged as a vocal opponent of Obamcare, the President’s attempt to socialize the American healthcare system. Cruz publicly and aggressively attacked the program at a time when many even within his own Republican Party were treading lightly.

What Ted Cruz has done is stand up and give voice to the massive base of the Republican Party that has felt left behind by the Party’s political leaders in recent years. As spending has exploded, war droned on, and deals been cut with Democrats that have allowed disastrous socialist programs to continue, that base has grown from restless to revolutionary.

While that Republican Party leadership cut those deals and smiled for the cameras, talking words like “compromise” and “collaboration”, the old “reaching across the aisle” stuff, Cruz not only recognized these continuing methods as disastrous for the Party politically, but for the nation intrinsically.

In 2013, Senator Cruz has invigorated the Republican Party base, which the Party will need if it is to have any chance at taking control of the full Senate in 2014 and then winning back the White House in 2016. Properly motivated, that base has the ability to make just those very things happen.

Republican control of both Houses of Congress, combined with control of the White House, in the next few years gives us the best, perhaps the only chance to reverse the disastrous liberal socialist spending programs instituted under Obama. That can only happen if more politicians become as publicly aggressive and fearless as Cruz was this year. Reaction to his style makes that possible now.

For his aggressive, principled, public stands on behalf of truly Conservative political values during a period when far too many Party leaders have been cow-towed into political cowardice, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is selected as the American of the Year.


In an original version of this article, I posited that Cruz was not eligible to become the President of the United States himself. This was based on an improper reading of materials which I believed stated that, with his having clearly been born outside of the U.S., both his parents needed to be U.S. citizens in order for him to be eligible for POTUS.

This is not so. On further research, the key information relating to Cruz comes from the ‘Citizenship Clause’ of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, as well as from the Nationality Act of 1940. Ted Cruz, with his mother clearly a U.S. citizen for more than 10 years, was considered a U.S. citizen himself at birth.

Basically, Cruz enjoyed ‘dual citizenship’ from the U.S and Canada. He has chosen to retain counsel in order to prepare the paperwork necessary in order to renounce his Canadian citizenship. This is clearly a precurssor to a projected run for the US Presidency in 2016 or sometime in the future. He does indeed enjoy such eligibility. My earlier comments were in error, and are well corrected here.

2004 – Pat Tillman
2005 – Bill O’Reilly
2006 – Rev. Billy Graham
2007 – P/O Chuck Cassidy (for the American police officer)
2008 – George W. Bush
2009 – Glenn Beck
2010 – Ron Paul
2011 – Seal Team 6
2012 – Michael Phelps

TO VIEW all articles relating to the previous ‘American of the Year‘ award honorees, simply click on that below ‘Tag’

2009 American of the Year: Glenn Beck

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This was a year of tremendous change for America, and the vast majority of it was not for the good. Our national debt, already out of control as the year began, has now soared to previously unimaginable levels.

Our government has taken over control of large portions of private industry, and is poised to take over even more in the coming years.

On the international front, we have become indecisive and noncommittal in fighting a war against a determined Islamofascist enemy that continues to look for ways to attack us, kill our citizens, and deal crippling blows to our economy and our way of life.

Thanks to recent election results, we face a future of increasing debt and taxation and decreasing personal freedom and liberty.

Not willing to stand by and simply whine and complain on the airwaves, radio talk show host Glenn Beck took his blossoming television program from CNN’s Headline News and moved to the Fox News network in early 2009.

This move allowed him to get out from under the umbrella of the liberal mandate of CNN and into the Fox world that allows fair and balanced reporting of all sides of the issues.

Beck then began a year-long education of the American people on civics, history, and current events that was quite simply not being discussed anywhere else in any clear and consistent manner.

For his efforts as a truthful voice crying out in the wilderness, and for his out-front leadership of traditional America, this website is proud to name Glenn Beck as it’s 2009 American of the Year.

Beck follows in the footsteps of previous honorees Pat Tillman (2004), Bill O’Reilly (2005), Rev. Billy Graham (2006), P/O Chuck Cassidy (2007), and President George W. Bush (2008).

While many years have seen a number of worthy individuals fall just short while being considered, no one really came close to challenging Beck for this year’s honor.

There is no doubt that websites, magazines, and news programs run by and catering to ultra-liberals, socialists, and Europeans will look to make their ‘Person of the Year’ selections soon.

Many of them will no doubt select Barack Obama for his, uh, for…hmmm. There is the whole being sworn in and becoming the first-ever minority, well, half-minority President in American history thing. But then that is really a ceremony.

Should we give someone an award for contributions during an entire year when all they really accomplished was ceremonial? Well, apparently they give out the Nobel prize for accomplishing nothing. But this website will not fall into that trap.

The more important thing would seem to be not winning an election, but what you do once you are in office. Other than driving up debt, decreasing freedom, and lessening national security, it’s hard to find any accomplishments of Obama this past year.

This year, Beck released another in a what is fast becoming a series of best-selling books. His latest is titled “Arguing With Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government” and in it he takes on these targets with simple facts.

Gun control? Government-run health care? Illegal immigration? You might think that you have an opinion, but in this book, Glenn will help you to understand the facts.

The 45-year old Beck did more than lend a leading voice to the most worthy cause of protecting and preserving the U.S. Constitution and restoring American exceptionalism, though that enough would be worthy of the honor.

As a concrete measure, he organized the ‘9-12 Project’ to embody the spirit that the vast majority of Americans felt on the day after the 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks.

Beck’s ‘9-12 Project’ is based on 9 principles and 12 values that embody this spirit. The principles include basic ideals such as “America is good”, “I believe in God”, “The family is sacred”, and “The government works for me.”

The 12 values are: honesty, reverence, hope, thrift, humility, charity, sincerity, moderation, hard work, courage, personal responsibility, and gratitude.

Beck also gave a voice to the ‘Tea Party’ movement which grew at formal town hall gatherings all across the country during 2009. Based on the ‘Boston Tea Party’ concept of protest against excessive government actions and taxation, these localized events exploded into a massive taxpayer march on Washington on September 12th, 2009.

His style is one of intellectual inquisitiveness mixed with what he himself calls a ‘rodeo clown’ persona. Open about being a recovering alcoholic, Beck sprinkles his television program with the same humor that is a hallmark of his radio show, adding formal charts and graphics and video accompanied by simple presentations made by him alone standing at a chalkboard. He engages guests at both venues of all political persuasions in conversation rather than rancorous debate.

Critics of Beck’s programming presentations have often used terms such as ‘fear-monger’ and ‘conspiratorial’, and yet almost never do you here any substance behind such accusations and commentary.

As is a hallmark of the liberal community in general, name-calling is about all that the left has to offer up in rebuttal when challenged on-air by Beck’s biting tongue and sharp wit.

In September of 2009, Beck was highlighted by the usually left-leaning Time magazine in a cover piece titled “Is Glenn Beck Bad For America?” In this sweeping article that basically painted him as one would expect from a liberal tome, Time had this to say of his programming:

“As melodrama, it’s thumping good stuff. But as politics, it’s sort of a train wreck — at once powerful, spellbinding and uncontrolled.”

What the magazine did not say is perhaps the most telling thing. It did not say that he is a liar.

There are any number of radio talk hosts, television commentators, political pundits, comic satirists, and armchair politicians out there. But exactly because he is so “powerful, spellbinding and uncontrolled” as well as truthful, Glenn Beck taps into the raw nerves of the large numbers of Americans who are as rightfully frightened for the future of our once-great nation as he himself has become.

For his expressive courage, his moral conviction, his articulation of truth, his love of America, he is an example to us all. For what he has overcome in his personal life to become a wealthy, influential opinion shaper, as well as a devoted, loving family man, he is an example as well.

For all of this, and for his work with the ‘9-12 Project’ and the ‘Tea Party’ movement, Glenn Beck is this website’s 2009 American of the Year.

NOTE: To view the write-ups for all of the ‘American of the Year’ winners simply click on to that ‘Tag’ below this article at http://www.mattveasey.com

2007 American of the Year: Chuck Cassidy

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Folks outside of the Philadelphia, PA area might be saying “What? Who?” right about now. But bear with me and you will understand. For those in the area, it’s likely that you know the name, and if so then you know the reason.

Let’s start off with the briefest of updates for those who don’t know the reason. Charles “Chuck” Cassidy was a Philadelphia police officer who gave his life in the line of duty on Halloween morning, basically ambushed by a robber whom he likely never saw coming.

It was the sunny morning of October 31st, 2007, and 54-year old Chuck Cassidy eased his marked Philadelphia police department SUV into a parking space directly in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts business in the West Oak Lane section of the city.

No one can speak for officer Cassidy as to what was running through his mind at that moment. From being in his situation on thousands of occasions over a seventeen-year career, I can probably paint you a fair picture.

First, it was a beautiful day outside and Chuck, a veteran of a quarter-century policing the streets of Philadelphia, was likely basking in it. Perhaps on the drive to the donut shop he had music playing in his patrol vehicle. He certainly had his police radio on, listening to the scattered broadcasts coming over on a typical bustling day in the busy 35th police district which he served for two decades.

Nearby that morning there was scheduled to be a memorial service for a long-ago fallen officer. A plaque would be placed near the location of that heroic officer’s ultimate sacrifice, and it is entirely plausible that Chuck had plans to attend that service along with dozens, if not hundreds, of fellow officers, friends, and family members of the officer. He would certainly have known of the service, and was factoring it into his morning plans in some way.

Also, it was Halloween, and Chuck Cassidy was a family man in the best sense of that word. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Judy, for over 26 years, and they had been raising three great kids: Katie, Colby, and John.

Along with this immediate family there were numerous nieces and nephews, and some would be getting ready for the annual “trick or treat” rituals. This kid-friendly holiday and his own family’s plans to handle that evening’s anticipated rush of candy-craving kids was surely on his mind.

At that early part of the morning, this was probably not just another day to Chuck Cassidy; it was probably one of the good days. Sunny and pleasant, a family-type fun holiday, a remembrance scheduled for a fallen brother officer. Chuck headed out on patrol with his mind likely at ease, but he was also most certainly at some level of extra awareness and attentiveness due to recent events both in his patrol area and in the city.

In his area, there had been a string of robberies, and these Dunkin’ Donuts establishments had been particularly targeted a few times. Chuck had established an ongoing friendly relationship with the management and employees of this particular venue, as all of us who have ever patrolled the streets have done with many of the business people in our assigned areas. Chuck made it a habit to particularly stop by and ensure that all was well at this location.

Over the past four weeks, the city had been rocked by the shooting of three other Philadelphia police officers in separate incidents, including two in just the past three days. And it was just over a year ago that the city had been rocked by the death of another popular family man officer, Gary Skerski, a friend and work colleague of mine from my own days patrolling the 6th district in the early 1990’s, who was shot by a robber exiting the scene of his crime.

Shootings have been out of control in our town for some time now, and local cops and other law enforcement officers have not escaped becoming victims of the epidemic of violence.

So as he exited his SUV, Chuck Cassidy was likely in good spirits, looking forward to the day, possibly even to enjoying that “first cup of coffee” that is one of the small things so important to so many of us.

As he exited, someone outside of the shop told him that something suspicious was going on inside, and with that information and all of the previous knowledge of robberies and shootings, Chuck likely opened that shop door with a heightened sense of awareness and apprehension.

There is no way that I can say this for a fact, but having viewed the news videos from outside the shop, and having seen the surveillance video from inside, there is likely another crucial factor that contributed to what happened next. As anyone who has ever stood outside on a bright, sunny day knows, it is very difficult to see into the windows of a small business. The glare from the sun simply overtakes the situation. My bet is that Chuck was walking in “blind”, perhaps believing that he might be walking in on an argument that the establishment was having with a customer.

We certainly know what happened next. 21-year old John Lewis, a young black male, a high school dropout, a repeat offender with a lengthy criminal past already, had been inside holding up the business at the point of a handgun.

It was not his first time, as he would later be named as the robber in the other recent Dunkin’ Donuts robberies. He had been an employee at one of the businesses in the past, knew their routines, and thus felt the store was an easy mark. What he didn’t count on was a police officer pulling up just at the moment that he was robbing the shop.

Lewis had just a couple of seconds to decide what he was going to do next. Since he could see out the windows much better than Chuck could see inside, Lewis knew that he was about to be confronted, and thus he had a serious advantage. Chuck only knew that there might be some type of problem inside, nothing more.

As Philadelphia Police Officer Chuck Cassidy pulled open the handle of the door and stepped into the doorway, Lewis had made his decision. He was not going to be arrested on this day, he was going to try to get away, and there was only one way that was likely to happen.

At 10:30 am on Halloween morning 2007, John Lewis pointed his gun and shot Chuck Cassidy at point-blank range in the head as the officer took the final steps of his life into the doorway of that small Dunkin’ Donuts shop on Broad Street in Philadelphia.

He never saw it coming, at least not until it was entirely too late. Chuck was kept alive by artificial means until he died the following morning. The killer made his getaway, and eventually fled to Florida with the help of a family member. But outstanding police work by Chuck’s fellow officers led to his capture.

At this point, I would like to apologize to the family and his fellow officers in the 35th district for any liberties that I may have taken here in describing Chuck’s thoughts and actions. They are in no way meant to speak for what absolutely happened; they are just the ruminations of a fellow officer who has been in similar situations on similar days, albeit without a tragic ending to this point.

Also my apologies to the department, particularly the hard-working investigators on the case, for any slight errors in describing the incident. The details have been gleaned from press reports and conversations with fellow officers. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Chuck, as is obvious with the announcement of what I hope is the honor being bestowed herein.

An outsider might argue that I am being partial to law enforcement officers, Philly cops in particular, in naming Chuck as this year’s honoree. After all, cops are killed all across the country, every year. And last year saw the murder under very similar circumstances of Gary Skerski, whom I personally knew and worked with. Was there some reason he was not named, and Chuck suddenly was this year? And there will be some who say, in all due respect to the fallen officer, weren’t there Americans this year whose contributions were more vital in the bigger picture?

I always feel the need to defend the choices that I make for this honor each year. There have been three previous recipients, all of a higher national awareness level than Chuck.

In 2004, Pat Tillman was named for sacrificing his life in the War on Terror, particularly since he gave up stardom in the NFL to defend his country. In 2005 it was pundit Bill O’Reilly, who put the heat on both the political right and left in his “No Spin Zone” every night during a time of political partisanship, and who had become an outspoken champion of children’s causes. In 2006 it was the preacher to the country, Billy Graham, a man whose is certainly a modern-day apostle.

In choosing Chuck Cassidy, it is for both his own personal sacrifice, because after all he gave of himself fully by giving his life. He paid the ultimate price in the service to his community, and after all what is more important to the nation?

It is also representative for the sacrifices in the past of Gary Skerski, Danny Faulkner, and the thousands of other law enforcement officers across the country who have likewise given their lives in service to their communities. The men and women of law enforcement put on a uniform, strap on a gun, and step out each day on some level to serve their fellow Americans.

The sacrifice of Chuck Cassidy raised him above some of the other very worthy nominees this year. I want to thank those who submitted the names of First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, economist Thomas Sowell, author Dinesh D’Souza, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, TV personality Oprah Winfrey, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, former Senator Rick Santorum, local war hero Dell Dailey, and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

There was another consideration this year as well. It was most certainly the year of the “Pop Tart”, and I wrote an article about this back in June of this year. The embarrassing public and private exploits of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, and Tara Reid, among others, took over the headlines many nights. This was all highlighted by the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

The awful negative example that these young women were giving to our youth led me on a search of young Hollywood women who might be a shining, positive example, in the hopes that highlighting one of them with the honor would serve as a counter. But the sacrifice given by Chuck overwhelmed even that idea.

Earlier in the year, back in March, Chuck and his partner had confronted a pair of armed gunmen who had just committed another robbery. The two officers confronted the men with strength, professionalism, and maturity, and were able to convince the men to lay down their weapons, taking them into custody without further incident.

That job ended far more pleasantly, and gave Chuck the opportunity to bask in being a hero to his community and fellow officers. But it was not a role he cherished. Almost to a man, it was well known that Chuck avoided the spotlight.

At his funeral services, Chuck’s brother-in-law, Tony Conti, gave a tremendously eloquent and moving eulogy that painted a wonderful, uplifting picture of Chuck’s life.

In it, Mr. Conti described all of the attention that was surrounding the aftermath of the murder: “Chuck is an unassuming man, right Mrs. Cassidy? This is a guy who avoided the spotlight. This is a man who hated to be the center of attention. Do you have any idea what he’s saying right now?”

I hope that in naming Chuck Cassidy as the website’s 2007 American of the Year, he would accept if he could on behalf of the sacrifice that all of America’s police officers and their families make every day. The battle that our troops overseas face every day is similarly fought here at home on our own streets everyday by its police officers, firefighters, and other law enforcement officers and public service professionals.

May God bless the family as they move forward. May He bless all of the police officers around the nation, and particularly here in the City of Brotherly Love, in staying safe while remaining dedicated to their communities each day.

And may God especially bless Philadelphia police officer and 2007 American of the Year Chuck Cassidy with a well-deserved eternity of peace.

NOTE: By clicking the below ‘Label’ you can link to view all of they American of the Year honorees.

2005 American of the Year: Bill O’Reilly

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Fox News commentator, author and broadcast journalist Bill O’Reilly, has been selected as the second “American of the Year” honoree in what is planned to be an annual tradition at this website. The selection of O’Reilly follows last year’s honoring of former NFL player and American serviceman Pat Tillman, who gave his life in the War on Islamofascist Terror.

The radio and television personality and pundit would be the first to say that he doesn’t belong in the company of someone like Mr. Tillman, who gave up his life for his country.

However, I would beg to differ. What Mr. O’Reilly contributes to the American public on an everyday basis is just as vital and important as those physically fighting on the frontlines overseas.

Bill O’Reilly is the lead face and voice in what is rapidly becoming a much more fair and balanced approach to news coverage and commentary on radio, cable television, and on the internet, taking back the airwaves and the newsprint from the traditional, liberal media.

His role in fighting regulary and forcefully to bring out the truth to the American public makes him the perfect honoree during a turbulent, polarized time in our country.

During 2005, Mr. O’Reilly’s book “The O’Reilly Factor For Kids”, was the year’s best-selling non-fiction book for kids. His no-nonsense, straightforward, truthful manner in delivering helpful hints for those in the pre-teen through high school crowd in dealing with everyday problems and situations was an eye-opening page-turner.

Helping the vital young people in America sort through all the BS involved in the pressures of drugs, drinking, dating, the internet, politics, family strife, education, music, television, and every other hot topic to youngsters today was just one reason to select him for this honor.

All throughout the year on his Fox News Channel television program “The O’Reilly Factor”, he challenged folks on both sides of the aisle and all sides of every issue to enter his “No Spin Zone” discussions. In his syndicated radio program known as “The Radio Factor”, Mr. O’Reilly told it like it is.

From Cindy Sheehan to Joe Wilson, from hurricanes to terrorism, Mr. O’Reilly was there to call a spade a spade. He led thoughtful conversations, presenting actual facts to help Americans sort through the melodrama portrayed on traditional network media outlets to get to the heart of, and cut to the truth of, each story.

Near year’s end, Mr. O’Reilly took on the very real threat of recent attacks on the Christmas holiday from secular forces in both the corporate and political worlds. Directly as a result of the hard work and truth-telling of Mr. O’Reilly and his followers, corporations such as Wal-Mart were forced to begin re-recognizing that “Merry Christmas” offends almost no one, and is in fact supported strongly by a vast majority of Americans.

Mr. O’Reilly correctly identified that the proper celebration and recognition of real American traditions such as Christmas, the recognition and respect for the rights of American Christians, and the idea of telling truth at the expense of political correctness are very vital components in maintaining a national identity, and ensuring American security into the future.

For his very public and very sincere media leadership on every important issue to the American people, and most importantly his insistence on truthfulness in commenting and reporting during these biased and polarized times, Bill O’Reilly is named the 2005 American of the Year. And that’s “no bloviating”.

2004 American of the Year: Pat Tillman

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Pat Tillman is the website’s selection as it’s 2004 American of the Year, the first-ever such designation in what we hope will become an annual tradition. This wasn’t really a difficult choice at all.

President George W. Bush was the only real contender for the honor who came close. But Tillman’s ultimate sacrifice for his country pushed him to the top of the list of great American’s for this past year.

Pat Tillman was an athlete, an acknowledged football rat. The guy simply loved to play football. Getting him out of a game was a difficult measure at any level.

Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden, in selecting him as his Sportsman of the Year, reported a story from Tillman’s high school days when he continued to sneak back into a blowout game after being removed by the coaches, to the point where the only way they could keep him on the bench was to take away his helmet. He wasn’t trying to show up the other team, or rub salt in their wounds, he simply couldn’t stand not playing.

Tillman helped lead his college team, Arizona State, to the 1996 Rose Bowl. A year later he was voted the Top Defensive Player in the Pac-10, one of the nation’s elite football conferences.

When he graduated from Arizona State and became eligible for the NFL draft, his college coach, Hugh Snyder, was asked if Tillman could make it in the NFL. His reply was “If you don’t want him on your team, don’t draft him, because he won’t let you cut him.” The Phoenix Cardinals made Tillman their 7th round selection in the 1998 draft.

Tillman started his NFL career as many players do, making his mark with outstanding play on ‘special teams’, the kickoff-team kamikazes who throw their bodies around in their efforts to both preserve territory for their team, as well as set the tone for the rest of the game.

His outstanding play led him to win the starting Free Safety position with the Cards, and in 2000 he broke the team record for tackles in a season. The coaches  in Arizona repeatedly had to slow him down in practice, so that Tillman wouldn’t hurt any of his teammates. It wasn’t that he was mean or overly aggressive, you just couldn’t slow the guy down.

He was offered a free agent contract by the St. Louis Rams, a winning organization coming off a recent Super Bowl win, but Tillman turned it down to stay in Phoenix out of loyalty to the team that had given him his chance to become a pro athlete. He then turned down a lucrative $3 million contract from the Cardinals for an even nobler reason.

When the United States was attacked by radical Islamic terrorists on September 11th, 2001, something began to stir in the soul of Pat Tillman. Along with his brother Kevin, a minor leaguer with the Cleveland Indians baseball organization, Tillman resolved to personally do something to protect and defend his country.

The Tillman brothers decided that they were going to join the military, and traded in their football helmet and baseball cap respectively to become members of the elite Army Rangers. Pat Tillman walked away from millions of dollars and the perks that come with being a young, good-looking, popular professional athlete to fight for America.

Bob Ferguson, the Cardinals General Manager when Tillman was drafted, was quoted:

“Pat represents all that is good with this country, our society and ultimately the human condition in general. In today’s world of instant gratification and selfishness, here is a man that was defined by words like loyalty, honor, passion, courage, strength and nobility. He is a modern-day hero.”

Not only did Pat Tillman join the military to fight for his country’s security, but he did so without fanfare. As an NFL star, his enlistment could have been a big deal. Tillman didn’t want that, he wanted to simply be an American soldier.

So, rather than enlisting in the Phoenix area, which would certainly have gotten out in public, Tillman went to Denver to enlist in an area where he was more anonymous. He requested that the Cardinals keep his enlistment as private as possible for as long as possible, and then to play it down with simplicity once it got out.

Tillman became a specialist in the 75th Ranger Regiment, out of Fort Benning, Georgia, and served in many operations and missions for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

After serving an initial tour, Tillman returned to the States in 2003, and was the Cardinals guest at a game in Seattle last December, before which he spoke to his teammates in the locker room, telling of his pride in serving with the Army Rangers. Shortly thereafter, he returned to Iraq for another tour of duty defending his country.

On April 22nd, 2004, after coming under fire at around 7pm on a road near Sperah, 25 miles southwest of the U.S. base at Khost, Tillman’s patrol got out of their vehicles and gave chase, moving toward the spot of the ambush. This was an area where many U.S. military personnel had come under fire, and been killed or wounded, by al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

The fighting was reported to be sustained, lasting about 15-20 minutes. Nine enemy fighters were killed in the confrontation, and two Americans wounded. An Afghani fighting with the U.S. forces was killed, as was the heroic football player-turned-soldier, Pat Tillman.

Though at first believed to have been killed in action by enemy fire, an investigation has revealed that Tillman was likely a victim of ‘friendly-fire’ during the intense, confusing fire-fight, adding more tragedy to the loss of his life.

(Note: video added to story on later website update)

The Phoenix Cardinals will retire Tillman’s uniform #40, and plan to name a plaza outside their new stadium the ‘Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza’. Arizona State has retired Tillman’s college uniform jersey #42, and placed his name in the team’s ‘Honor Ring’ surrounding their stadium. The Cardinals and ASU are getting together to organize a scholarship fund in Tillman’s name.

A statement of sympathy from the White House stated that Tillman was an inspiration both on and off the football field. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was quoted: “Pat Tillman personified all the best interests of his country and the NFL. He was an achiever and leader on many levels, and always put his team, his community, and his country ahead of his personal interests.”

Phoenix Cardinals Michael Bidwell, the son of the team owner, was quoted: “In sports we have a tendency to overuse terms like courage and bravery and heroes, and then someone like Pat Tillman comes along and reminds us what those terms really mean.”

I could not possibly have said it any better than Mr. Bidwell. For all of these reasons, the selection of football player, soldier and American hero Pat Tillman as the 2004 American of the Year is an easy one.