April 22, 2004 is a day of heroes. Today we commemorate those heroes by bringing their names forward yet again.
It was on that fateful day that America lost two of it’s many incredible warriors – United States Marine Corps Corporal Jason Dunham and United States Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Dunham, seemingly destined to be a Marine since being born on November 10, 1981 – the Marine Corps 206th birthday, would perform one of the war’s truly selfless sacrifices and be posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. As Wikipedia explains it:
On April 14, 2004, the battalion commander’s convoy came under attack near Husaybah, Iraq, and 4th Platoon was dispatched on patrol to investigate. Dunham and his squad intercepted a number of cars spotted near the scene of the attack, which the patrol detained to search for weapons. When the squad approached a white Toyota Land Cruiser and discovered AK-47s, the driver exited and attacked the Marines in an attempt to flee. Dunham responded by closing in for hand-to-hand combat to subdue him. During the fighting, the individual dropped an armed Mills 36M hand grenade.
Dunham, to save the rest of his men, deliberately threw himself on the grenade, attempting to use his PASGT helmet to shield himself and others from the explosion, warning the others to “watch his hands.” Dunham, the insurgent, and two other Marines nearby were all wounded by grenade fragments. Although the enemy fighter recovered sufficiently to flee the scene, he was shot dead while trying to escape.
Corporal Dunham was severely wounded by the grenade blast, and was immediately evacuated. Within days, he arrived at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland in a coma, where he was being treated for his injuries. After being diagnosed with brain damage and deemed unlikely to recover, he was taken off of life support eight days later, on April 22, 2004. Shortly beforehand, Commandant of the Marine Corps Michael Hagee presented Dunham with the Purple Heart. Dunham’s parents were at his bedside when he died. He was buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Scio.
Since his death, the United States Navy has named an Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer in his honor, and Dunham’s memory is kept alive through the active involvement of his family with the ship and his uniform, which is always on display aboard the quarterdeck.
Tillman’s path to the elite Army Ranger’s couldn’t have been more different. A standout football player at Arizona State University, he would go on to become defensive star for his hometown Arizona Cardinals.
Following the attacks of 9/11, Tillman walked away from professional football and a 3.6 million dollar contract from the St. Louis Rams to enlist in the United States Army with brother, Kevin.
The two would go on to serve together until Pat’s tragic death from friendly fire on April 22, 2004. A post on the 75th Ranger Regiment’s facebook page reads:
Honoring our fallen hero:
CPL. PATRICK D. TILLMAN
Killed in action on April 22, 2004
Operation Enduring Freedom
Cpl. Patrick D. Tillman was born in California on Nov. 6, 1976.
In the prime of a stellar football career, which included four years at Arizona State University on athletic scholarship and four years as a defensive back with the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, Pat Tillman walked away from a multiyear, multimillion dollar football contract to serve his country as a Soldier in the U.S. Army.
Tillman volunteered for duty with the Army in May 2002, requesting to serve as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment — the U.S. military’s premier light infantry fighting force.
After entering the Army in July 2002, he completed One Station Unit Training in the military occupational specialty of infantryman at Fort Benning, Ga. Tillman continued his military training at Fort Benning when he attended the Basic Airborne Course in October 2002. After earning his jump wings, he then graduated from the Ranger Indoctrination Program in December 2002.
On Jan. 14, 2003, he was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis, Wash. He went on to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger Course in November 2003.
His brother, Spc. Kevin M. Tillman, who played professional baseball for a Cleveland Indians minor league team, also joined the Army on a Ranger contract in 2002. After completing the same training path as Pat, Kevin was also assigned to 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Regt.
The Tillmans both deployed several times with their Ranger battalion in support of the Global War on Terrorism and participated in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
On April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman was fatally wounded when his Ranger unit came under fire during combat operations in southeastern Afghanistan. After he was medically evacuated from the scene, he was pronounced dead by U.S. officials at approximately 11:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
He is survived by his wife, Marie, of San Jose, Calif.; his parents, Patrick K. and Mary L. Tillman, also of California; and his brothers, Kevin and Richard.
His awards and decorations include the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge and the Ranger Tab.
As a Ranger, Cpl. Pat Tillman distinguished himself as a member of the Army’s premier light infantry unit, traveled to all corners of the world in support of the Global War on Terrorism and fought valiantly to “uphold the prestige, honor, and high ‘esprit de corps’” of the Ranger Regiment.
– RANGERS LEAD THE WAY! –