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Tillman's widow calls for true leadership

August 23, 2007|From the Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — The country needs "authentic leadership," the widow of NFL athlete-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman said Wednesday in her first public comments since her husband was killed by friendly fire.

Marie Tillman told an audience at the University of Arkansas that it was difficult to talk about her best friend, a dyanmic, action-oriented man.

"Pat was a man with enormous talent. His athletic ability was matched by a deep and complex moral and intellectual side," said Marie Tillman, who spoke at the Clinton School of Public Service. "He always tried to do the right thing, and he was the first to admit when he didn't."

Pat Tillman was killed April 22, 2004, by bullets fired by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, not by enemy fire as the military initially claimed. The military said officers knew within hours that Tillman's death was from friendly fire but didn't tell his family or the public for five weeks.

Tillman's death attracted worldwide attention because he had walked away from a huge contract with the Arizona Cardinals pro football team to enlist after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Many things have changed since Pat decided to join the Army. And unfortunately, leadership on many levels has come into question," Marie Tillman said. "We are in need of authentic leadership on many levels: social, economic and political."

During a congressional hearing Aug. 1, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and three former generals expressed regret with the Pentagon's delay in telling the truth. They took no blame for the violation.

Pat Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, and other family members maintain that Rumsfeld and others must have known more about her son's death sooner than they have acknowledged. The family has alleged a cover-up leading to the White House.

But Wednesday, Marie Tillman and brother-in-law Alex Garwood, who together lead the Tillman Foundation inspired by Pat's memory, steered clear of discussion about the controversy. Marie Tillman and Garwood said the foundation was committed to developing leaders among young people.

Through its programs at Arizona State and in Tillman's hometown of San Jose, young people work with mentors and focus on solving real-life problems, they said.

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