Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pat's Run

Photo: 42 yard line is set inside Sun Devil Stadium... see you at the start line bright and early! #PatsRun #NeverStop
Photo of the field at Sun Devil Stadium the finish line for Pat's Run, photo credit to The Pat Tillman Foundation, fair use/public domain claimed,

Greetings All:

Yesterday was Pat's RunPat's Run is a fund-raiser for The Pat Tillman Foundation.  The first run was in 2005 and it's going strong.  For those of you who are not familiar with Pat Tillman, he was a former standout college and pro football player.  He made headlines when he decided to walk away from football (and the accompanying fame and money) to enlist in the U.S. Army.  He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.  

Pat Tillman with the Arizona Cardinals, public domain and/or fair use claimed.  Link to web below.
I remember watching his funeral in 2004 and immediately thought of the F. Scott Fitzgerald line, "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy."  It was sad and tragic.  Here was this true "All-American" who had so selflessly elected to serve his nation, now amongst the fallen. 

Then the news broke about what really went down in Afghanistan on 22 April 2004. After a series of botched investigations, it was finally confirmed that Pat died from friendly, not enemy fire.   I cannot image the agony this news caused his family.  I do not want to dwell on this part of the story for this blog post.  Not that it is not important, it is.  It is why I have attached the link to the Department of Defense Inspector General's report in the source section.  I encourage everyone to read it.  

I do not want to dwell on it as that could easily take up a couple of blog posts (even by my self-indulgent word counts).  Instead, I want to focus on the reasons I love Pat's Run.

Pat's Run is held annually in Tempe, Arizona.  It raises money for the foundation and is also a flagship p.r. event.  The length is 4.2 miles as a nod to Pat's number at Arizona State University.  The race finished in Sun Devil Stadium on the 42 yard line.  I've had the good fortune to run it three times.  It is an amazing feeling to come charging (or in my case panting) onto the field celebrating the life of Pat Tillman.  It was an honor to be part of something, in the words of Arizona's senior U.S. Senator John McCain, "...bigger than myself."  Did I mention it's a ton of fun?  If I didn't, I should have.  It's a event where runners, walkers, families, students, alums, veterans, locals, visitors, Tillman admirers and the list goes and on of people who come out to honor the memory of someone taken way too soon.    

When you run the race, you'll see signs on the path with some of Pat's quotes.  One that I remember, "Don't tell me about the pain, show me the baby!"  From all I have read about Pat and from the first-hand accounts I have heard about him, he was all about action.  He wanted to make a difference and was without pretense.  

When he elected to join the Army, he did so quietly.  He told only those who needed to know (his agent, his coach, the Arizona Cardinals owners.) and that's it.  No press conferences, no exclusive interviews.  I was particularly impressed that although his college degree qualified him to seek a direct commission, he declined that route.  Instead of serving as an officer, he served as a Soldier.  He sought out the incredibly difficult assignment as an Army Ranger.  He was about service.

It was not until I listened to John K book, Where Men Win Glory:  The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, that I learned Pat Tillman could have pursued an "out" with his enlistment contract.  Unlike officers who must resign their commissions, enlistment contracts may be honorably terminated.  Pat had already served a combat tour in Iraq.  He could have asked to be released from military service.  Surely, he would have received an Honorable discharge.  He had been to combat, more than any other active professional athlete (I recall, if I'm wrong on this fact, call me on it, please!) at the time.  He could have returned to football and as a private citizen done a ton to raise awareness about those serving in harms' way. 

He demurred.  Well, I doubt he used that word.  He likely said, "No thanks."  He had made a deal with his country and his Army.  He would honor every day of it.  He could have gone back to the bright lights of football.  Instead, he went back to war.

Pat's Run celebrates many things.  It celebrates learning.  The Pat Tillman Foundation has a wonderful history of supporting our military through its military scholars' program.  Out of the 28,000 who run it each year, there are those running who have not done so in years.  There are people who learn that they can run 4.2 miles.  That is something that I think would cause Pat to smile.   

My Pat's Run T-shirt from 2010, photo (and shadow) credit, Jeno Berta

Pat's Run has spread across the country.  There are shadow runs across the country.  There is a link below to a story of how the legacy of Pat Tillman extends beyond the ASU campus.  It is a great way for for people to celebrate the day, the event, who cannot be in Tempe.

Speaking of those who wanted to be in Tempe, count me in that crowd.  I would have loved to be there.  However, there were other priorities that prevented this.  One year, I do want to go back and run it.  However, upon reflecting on yesterday, I was fortunate to experience the spirit of Pat's Run.

The day started with my youngest daughter and I attending the Lion's Club pancake breakfast.  It was a nice meal for a great cause.  The gentlemen below was kind enough to let me snap a photo of the back of his shirt.  It summed up the reason why organizations are so important to our communities.  

From this morning's Lion's Club pancake breakfast fund-raiser.  This says it all about the virtue of public service.  Image used with permission of the wearer, photo by Jeno Berta.

From there, we moved onto our community's March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon.  About a thousand people showed up at the Rock Island Arsenal to support a wonderful cause.  A good time was had by all.  I'd write more about it, but seeming how I'm w-a-y long on this post, I'll have to leave it there.  I will share a photo, though.

A couple of banners from our local March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon.  Photo by Jeno Berta

These are just a couple of examples of good deeds going on in my community.  I have no doubt there were a bunch I missed.  Multiple these events by those across our country and it's clear to see people are living the legacy of Pat Tillman, of service and leadership through action.  Even if people do not realize it.

I am so glad I had the chance to participate in Pat's Run and more than once.  Do I want to do it again?  You bet.  Even if I don't I've got some great memories and even a few shirts.  Here's the logo for this year's.  I may be buying a shirt and if you'd like to as well, the link is below.  

Pat Tillman Foundation (Official)
Here's the logo for this year's Pat's Run, courtesy of The Pat Tillman Foundation and their Facebook page, implied limited use and public domain claimed.  The link to the Facebook page is listed below.  

It's easy to look at someone like Pat Tillman and be in awe of his life, thinking there is no way you could "measure up" to him.  In a way, you'd be right.  You can't be Pat Tillman.  What you and I can be is ourselves.  We can (and should) take inspiration from Pat's life, his values, his accomplishments and his utter unapologetic zest for life.  

And then, go run our own races.

Be well my friends,

April 27, 2014

(Just a quick FYI that the comments expressed in this and every Cedo Pontis blog post are mine alone.  I am writing strictly in my personal capacity and do not reflect the position of any governmental or corporate agency.  Thanks.)


Photo of Pat Tillman in Arizona Cardinals (National Football League) uniform, from this web source:  This image was available to "share" from the website, thus the claim of public domain/fair use.

For Buying a T-Shirt-

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