Pat Tillman and The Essence of Virtue


I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a “hero” and “warrior” especially. My own experiences on this subject are limited and narrow. More often than not my mind always goes back to two brave friends who fought and died upholding a proud tradition of sacrifice and honor.

I had a lot in common with both men. All of us were Italian and the same age. We liked to read books and we all loved being in the army. There the similarities stopped.

Both men could not have been more different in personality and temperament. In my heart and memories their lives are forever linked.  In the worst of conditions and times, the legacy of these two men steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed.

The names of these two brave men were Captain Bruno G. DeSolenni and Captain Phillip T. Esposito. Both men were my friends.

I miss them fiercely because through their lives they displayed chivalry. They were like modern knights. This is true of all of you on the receiving end of this email. Men of nobility, not by birth but by action.

The Essence of Virtue

John Russell, an English Writer, said, “Collision is as necessary to produce virtue in men as it is to elicit fire in inanimate matter; and chivalry is the essence of virtue.” You can’t make steel without fire. In our conversations we are tempering the steel within us.

Hopefully these essays are causing you to think, learn and lead better lives. Here is another example.

I just got through reading a book for the third time about Pat Tillman called “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman” by Jon Krakauer.  It is a great book.

Where men Win Glory

“Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman” by Jon Krakauer

The way Krakauer is able to articulate why Pat Tillman was willing to walk away from a $3.5 million dollar contract and join the army. He becomes a private in the Ranger Battalion and make $1250 a month. He does it because he felt strongly about his country being at war. He wanted to do something about it. Krakauer calls this trait in Tillman “the essence of his virtue”.

Tillman was an obsessive journal keeper. Using his journals and interviews with the family Krakauer is able to give us a glimpse into Tillman. We see how he was feeling and what he thinking.

The night before enlisting Pat would sit at computer to try to figure out his feelings of why he wanted to join the army. This is best captured in a document titled

“Decisions” dated April 8, 2002-

Many decisions are made in our lifetime, most relatively insignificant while others are life altering. Tonight’s topic…the latter.

It must be said that my mind, for the most part, is made up. More to the point, I know what decision I must make. It seems that more often than not we know the right decision long before it is actually made.  Somewhere inside, we hear a voice, and intuitively know the answer to any problem or situation we encounter.  Our voice leads in the direction of the person we wish to become, but it is up to us whether or not to follow.  More times than not we are pointed in a predictable, straightforward, and seemingly positive direction. 

However, occasionally we are directed down a different one. In my case, a path that many will disagree with, and more significantly, one that may cause a great deal of inconvenience to those I love.

My life at this point is relatively easy. It is my belief that I could continue to play football for the next seven or eight years and create a very comfortable lifestyle for not only Marie (his girlfriend of 8 years he met in his freshman in high school and was with him until he died) and myself, but be afforded the luxury of helping out family and friends should the need arise.

The coaches and players I work treat me well and the environment has become familiar and pleasing. My job is challenging, enjoyable, and strokes my vanity enough to fool me into thinking it’s important. This all aside from the fact that I only work six month a year, the rest of the time is mine.

For more reasons than I care to list, my job is remarkable. On a personal note, Marie and I are getting married a month from today. We have friends and family we care a great deal about and the time and means to see them regularly. 

In the last couple of months we’ve been skiing in Tahoe, ice climbing in Utah, perusing through Santa Fe, visiting in California, and will be sipping Mai Tais in Bora Bora in a little over a month. We are both able to pursue any interests that strike our fancy and down the road, any vocation or calling.  We even have two cats that make our house feel like a home.  In short, we have a great life with nothing to look forward to but more of the same.

However, it is not enough. For much of my life I’ve tried to follow a path I believed important.  Sports embodied many of the qualities I deem meaningful: courage, toughness, strength, etc. while at the same time, the attention I received reinforced its seeming importance.  In the pursuit of athletics I have picked a college degree, learned invaluable lessons, met incredible people, and made my journey much more valuable than any destination.  However, these last few years, and especially after recent events (referring to 9-11), I’ve come to appreciate just how shallow and insignificant my role is. I’m no longer satisfied with the path I’ve been following…it’s no longer important.

I’m not sure where this new direction will take my life though I am positive it will include its share of sacrifice and difficulty, most of which will be falling squarely on Marie’s shoulders. Despite this, however, I am equally positive that this new decision will, in the end, make our lives fuller, richer, and more meaningful.  My voice is calling me in a different direction.  It is up to me whether or not to listen.”

Pat Tillman would die in Afghanistan almost two years to the day he wrote this. He was voted “Best Ranger” by his peers in Ranger School and awarded a Silver Star. Krakauer points out more important than how he died is how he lived.  I think this “essence of virtue” was displayed in both friends Bruno and Phil.


Pat Tillman

They both had the ability to inspire others by their personal example and how they lived their lives. I can tell you from experience the impact they both had my life has been profound because both were excellent leaders.


Krakauer, J. (2009). Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. New York: Random House Publishing .