Incirlik Airmen honor fallen veteran Pat Tillman

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 39th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) conducted a 40-mile bike ride around base, April 22, 2020, to honor former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.  

The event was organized by Senior Airman Matthew Fouard, an air traffic controller assigned to the 39th OSS Radar Approach Control (RAPCON), and recipient of the Military Active Duty and Reservist Commitment Scholarship under the Pat Tillman Foundation at Arizona State University (ASU). 

The 40-mile goal was chosen to symbolize the jersey number Tillman wore as an Arizona Cardinal.

“The goal of the Pat Tillman memorial bike ride is to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed all,” said Fouard. “Every year, ASU hosts the Pat Tillman Honor Run which includes a 4.2 mile run during the week of April 22 in Tempe, Arizona. I could not attend this year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions; but since this is my senior year, I wanted to participate in a way that shows my appreciation to a scholarship and a foundation that not only has contributed greatly to my dreams and success, but to many others that have come before and after me.”

The bike ride started right outside the flightline at Patriot Village, and continued around the flightline several times until 40 miles were reached.

“This bike ride is to show that actions have meanings and great leaders like Pat will never be forgotten,” said Fouard. “I can only hope I continue reaching the academic and military standards that Pat embodied while serving in the world’s greatest Air Force.”

Members expressed their thoughts during the event and Senior Master Sgt. Kory Lindsey, 39th OSS RAPCON chief controller, spoke about serving with Tillman before joining the Air Force. 

“This is something I try to do every year to continue to honor Pat Tillman,” said Lindsey. “I served at the same time in the U.S. Army 75th Ranger Regiment. When I first saw him, it was such an honor because we all knew everything he gave up to be with us. His story is incredible and exemplifies sacrifice and selflessness to our country.”

Tillman served his country by quitting a multimillion-dollar NFL career to join the fight against terrorism as an Army Ranger. According to the Tillman Foundation website, Tillman believed in something bigger than himself and dedicated his life to serving it. 

Tillman’s family and friends started the Pat Tillman Foundation to carry forward his legacy by giving military service members, veterans and their spouses the educational tools and support they need to reach their education goals. 

With this being the 16th anniversary of Tillman’s death, the group not only wanted to honor Tilman, but to make sure his legacy would not be forgotten.

“He is a true role model,” said Lindsey. “My son Kaden plays football and even wears a number 40 jersey. It really is great to see his legacy carry on through the Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship.”