TEMPE, AZ - Marine Corp veteran Matt Wilson has participated in every single Pat’s Run the past 10 years.
And as he was dropped off for the 10th annual race in Tempe today, which is organized by The Pat Tillman Foundation, he began to reminisce.
"Yeah, 10 years ago,” said Wilson. “We had two little kids and we were late getting here.”
He says today’s crowd of nearly 30,000 runners and walkers is much different from the scene 10 years ago.
"When we first did this event the first time, there (were) about 3,400 of us,” said Wilson. “I stopped racing for a personal time and I just want to hold the (American) flag."
An American flag that’s come to symbolize what Pat Tillman is all about.
He turned down millions of dollars from the NFL following the 9-11 attacks, opting to join the military and serve his country. He was killed in 2004 during a friendly fire incident.
"Pat had such a legacy here as a Sun Devil and as a Cardinal,” said Lindsay Hansen with The Pat Tillman Foundation.
“I think a lot of people just followed his story as a sports hero and when he went overseas, it had a lot of impact on people here in the Valley."
Tillman’s story of sacrifice resonates with Wilson, and it’s why this veteran plans to take part in Pat’s Run for many years to come.
"It's best that we don't forget. I mean, it's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since he's passed away. And that, I mean, it makes you tingle a little bit that he's no longer with us, but his legacy carries on,” said Wilson.
Proceeds from today’s race will go to the Tillman Military Scholars Program, which provides college funding to veterans and their spouses.