Pat Tillman USO Center Dedicated in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2004 Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers helped the United Service Organizations dedicate the Corporal Pat Tillman USO Center here today.
The center, right off the flight line, will be a place for servicemembers to use as they come in and out of Afghanistan. The center also will provide services to the men and women stationed here, said USO President Ned Powell.
Following the attack on America Sept. 11, 2001, Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar contract with the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army and serve with the 75th Ranger Regiment. He was killed in a friendly-fire accident in Afghanistan April 22.
Combined Joint Task Force 76 Commander Army Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson thanked the USO for the center and spoke a little bit about what made Pat Tillman a hero. He quoted author John Feinstein: "What made Pat Tillman a hero wasn't the fact that he died for his country, it was that he was willing to die for his country," Feinstein wrote in a commentary published earlier this month.
"The USO Center, of course, recognizes Pat Tillman's service, but it also commemorates your service," Myers told the group of soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines at the ceremony. "The fact is that you, too, put up your right hand, and that you often go into harm's way for your country. Pat Tillman made the choice to serve and to serve selflessly."
Myers said the facility is a testament to the courage, attitude and lan of Americans who serve in the country and their efforts to bring a better life to Afghans throughout the country. "It wasn't that long ago when the pundits were saying, 'Gee, you might be able to do your work in Afghanistan with regard to the Taliban and al Qaeda, but the Afghan people won't want you to stay very long,'" the chairman said.
"What we found out is through your hard work and the way you do your work that this is simply not the case," he continued. Part of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's platform in his run for the office was a strategic partnership with the United States of America. "You represent that partnership and that future," Myers said.
Elway represented the NFL at the ceremony. The league donated the money to build the facility. He said he was "truly humbled by the honor." He was proud to participate in a ceremony to honor "a great football player, a great human being and a great soldier."
Powell said that for 65 years the USO's one mission has been to connect servicemembers with the heart of the American people. Powell told the troops that Americans love and miss them. Americans honor the troops for their sacrifices and "truly get it."