In a groundbreaking episode of "Outside the Lines," two army Rangers that were current when the former Arizona Cardinals player was eliminated by familiar fire in Afghanistan spoke to each other for the an initial time top top Tuesday.
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Arizona Cardinals safetyPat Tillman shocked both football fans and his team members in may 2002 as soon as he turned down a contract market of $3.6 million over three years to join the U.S. Military in the wake up of the 9/11 attacks.
On April 22, 2004, Tillman was eliminated while deployed in Afghanistan in what was initially reported together the result of enemy strike — however was later revealed together friendly fire.
ESPN’s Outside the present filmed a unique investigative illustration to wait on Tuesday’s 10-year anniversary that Tillman’s death, yet no one can have predicted the the display would bring about a reconciliation of two of the army Rangers that were existing when he to be killed.
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Steven Elliott, among three ranger who has actually told investigators that he accidentally shooting Tillman, spoke about it publicly because that the an initial time v ESPN’s Bob Ley, revealing how he has actually struggled come live v what happened for a decade. “I make a decision to fire. It to be my decision and also responsibility, and also I made that choice,” the said.
On the various other side of the heartbreaking story is military specialist Bryan O’Neal, who was through Tillman’s side as soon as he to be fatally shot. “Pat was prefer a mentor… He to be smart, awesome,” that recalled of the square-jawed 27-year-old.
The two young enduring soldiers wherein in separate convoys in the like the mountain terrain of southeast Afghanistan, through O’Neal, 19, and also Tillman going in one direction and also Elliott’s team supposedly walk the other. But when they discovered their route to it is in inaccessible, they also took the left path, causing fatal confusion.
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The second convoy then come under assault from above, so the first convoy went up to a ridge line to carry out cover fire.
Elliott, then 23, “fired 2 to three bursts,” the told OTL, in ~ what hedescribed as shadowy-looking figures on the ridgeline during an ambush, saying his squad leader had fired first, which to be the “same as providing the order come fire,” that confessed, if breaking down in tears during the interview.
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Having to be by his hero’s side high up on the ridge as soon as the bullets hit, O’Neal recalled the NFL security expressing his shock the he’d been shot, “I am Pat f—ing Tillman,” that repeated, before he surrendered to his injuries and also become the very first professional soccer player to be eliminated in combat since 1970.
In the years since,O’Neal has actually struggled to both concerned terms v the loss and also forgive those who led to it. “I guess to say i forgive someone way I think about them; they space meaningless come me,” he said harshly in prior footage. “I would need to acknowledge castle exist.”
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However, after watching the early stage coverage of the anniversary top top ESPN last weekend, he got to out come the show’s producers and ask forElliott’s number because he was struck through how similar their life paths had been due to the fact that the catastrophic incident.
In the aftermath, both turned your backs on religion and instead turned come drink, and also both their an initial marriages finished in divorce. “I hated God that i survived, I flushed religion out of mine life… I became a to work alcoholic,” confessed O’Neal, who is currently happily married to wife Heather.
Elliott too swapped church because that the bottle, yet has because found religion again and also remarried his original wife. However, he revealed, “I to be still wrestling through this thing that is year old now.”
When the watched segments of Elliott’s interview top top ESPN and also seeing just how heartbroken and also remorseful that was, O’Neal claimed he had to “soften my love a tiny and expropriate what he’s putting out due to the fact that at least he has the courage come come forward and admit the he to be wrong.
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“I had actually no intentionally of it being today, on the anniversary, yet I am impulsive and also today it involved me,” O’Neal admitted ~ above Tuesday’s episode, having actually exchanged text messages through Elliott, who is now a financial planner, prior to going ~ above air. “But i am type of impulsive… It simply kind of involved me.
“Maybe this day is the day to go ahead and also talk come Elliott and maybe repair this connection that’s been severed over the past 10 years,” the told Ley.
“There was so much similarities with the scenarios that led approximately Pat’s death in between me and also Elliott that in a lot of ways there’s bound to be a many similarities in the aftermath. Us were both young,both new in the unit, in our first firefight…”
Also surprisingly, O’Neal said the landmark day had been easier than those in the past. “This is probably been the many stress-free, basic anniversary of Pat’s death that I’ve had actually in years,” because he was so connected in his brand-new job together a selection instructor, that revealed.
Following the emotionally reunion, Outside the Lines went to include a voiceover indigenous Tillman’s former Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals teammate, Jake Plummer, while his widow,Marie Tillman, common the distinct wish the left behind for she in a letter.
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Outside the lines airs day-to-day at 3 p.m. On ESPN and also on Sunday mornings. Clock the video clip clip listed below for details ~ above the occasions leading as much as Tillman’s death, which has end up being one that the most infamous friendly-fire events inU.S. Military history.