Thousands Attend Tillman Public Memorial

On Saturday morning, the stadium where Pat Tillman enjoyed his finest football memories with both ASU and the Cardinals, hosted a tribute and a celebration of life for this fallen American hero.

The estimated 5,000 in attendance included Tillman's parents Patrick and Mary, and widow Marie. Among the various speakers were Tillman's head coach at Arizona State Bruce Snyder, as well as his coaches and coordinators with the Arizona Cardinals Dave McGinnis and Larry Marmie. The Tillman family and the speakers were seated on the field; just in front the painted logos of ASU, the Cardinals, and the Army Rangers.

The tribute, which was conducted by Master of Ceremonies and the voice of the Sun Devils Tim Healy, began with a Missing Man formation flyover of four F-16's from Luke Air Force Base. Following that arial display, Jordin Sparks, daughter of former Sun Devil great and NFL player Phillipi Sparks, sang the national anthem.

ASU president Dr. Michael Crow welcomed those in attendance. He mentioned how touched he was by the community's response to death of Pat Tillman. "The ASU community embraced Pat Tillman and everything he stood for," he said. "They support our country and those who defend it." Crow went on to praise Tillman as a man of strong conviction. "There was no ambiguity with him," Crow stated. "There was winning or losing. Defense or no defense. Pat Tillman understood all those things at the highest level."

Arizona's Governor, Janet Napolitano, equated Tillman's bravery to that of warriors in Greek mythology, and mentioned the different facets that his life has and will touch. "There's more to his life than his ending," she said. "He left us cheering. His life history is now with ASU, the Cardinals, Tempe, and the state of Arizona." Following her speech, Napolitano presented the Tillman family with a state flag that used to fly over the Arizona capitol building.

Michael Bidwell, Vice President of the Arizona Cardinals, said that Tillman was "Taken in physical form, but the life values he acted upon are in each of us. They are dramatic and impossible to ignore. What we view as risks, he viewed as challenges. What we view as concerns, he viewed as duty to his country. He acted on his values. He didn't just speak of them."

Coach Snyder remarked that in 1994 a love affair between Pat Tillman and his team, as well as the greater Phoenix community began. Tillman's commitment, according to Snyder, was unwavering. "There is no redshirt year in life," said Snyder. "It showed in the way he played. He never missed a class, practice or tackle. He didn't live long, and that's sad, but he cut a wide path."

The last speaker, and by far the most moving speech, was Coach McGinnis. "These types of noble acts by men of Pat Tillman's stature," he said, "are going to reverberate for a long, long time…don't look with your eyes, look with your heart. That lump you feel in your throat, that's Pat. Those tears in your eyes – that's Pat. It is our duty to keep his spirit alive in our world." Not only did McGinnis' speech receive a standing ovation, but the former Cardinals coach was seen in and out of the stadium shaking the hands of hundreds of people, mostly strangers. The respect that people felt towards him was undeniable.

The memorial service concluded with Sparks singing God Bless America, and the release of 27 white doves, which represented each year of Pat Tillman's life. Ironically, the doves circled around the stadium several times before actually leaving it. It is almost as if the spirit of Pat Tillman, for the very last time, wanted to make sure that he reached and touched every corner of the playing field where he electrified football fans for several years…

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