Pat Tillman’s perseverance and determination as both a sportsman and a soldier are legendary. In 2014, the ESPY Awards decided to pay tribute to that legend.
The ESPYS gather top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by giving awards for major achievements and performances. The Pat Tillman Award for Service honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes Pat’s legacy. The award was introduced at last year’s ESPYS with U.S. Paralympic gold medal sled hockey player and Purple Heart recipient Josh Sweeney receiving the award. is one of the newest ESPY, honoring an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes Pat’s legacy.
Ever since she was a young girl, Sgt. Elizabeth Marks has idolized her father, a Vietnam War veteran whose valor and service inspired her to enlist in the U.S. Army when she was 17 years old. But when Marks suffered a debilitating injury to both of her hips while deployed as a combat medic in Iraq, her dream to serve her country was threatened. She endured several grueling surgeries, and made a promise to herself that she would regain her strength and return to active duty. Now a world-class Paraswimmer currently ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke, Marks won four gold medals at this year’s Invictus Games. For her courage in the face of adversity and her unwavering commitment to her country, Sgt. Elizabeth Marks was honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service.
Marks overcame great odds again in 2014. While traveling to London for the Invictus Games, Prince Harry’s international sporting competition for Para-athletes, she became gravely ill with a respiratory infection. She was hospitalized upon arrival and doctors at the Papworth Hospital put her on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation life support, an external lung machine which ultimately saved her life. Following the near-death experience, Marks began the long road to recovery all over again.
She recently competed at the second Invictus Games in Orlando, Fl. where she won four gold medals. As a symbolic gesture, she returned one of her medals to Prince Harry, and asked that he deliver it to the doctors and nurses at Papworth Hospital, as a way to thank them for saving her life – a request the Prince recently fulfilled.
Marks is also a member of the 2016 U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team and will participate in the 2016 Paralympic Games taking place in Rio de Janeiro in September.
When Danielle Green lost her left arm to a rocket-propelled grenade explosion while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2004, it was not the veteran-athlete’s first hurdle she had to overcome, and it wouldn’t be her last. Raised by her grandmother on the rough streets of Chicago’s South Side, Green had willed her way to Notre Dame, where she thrived as a serious student and standout member of the women’s basketball team. With the same determination, she set her sights on serving her country after graduating and is now a proud Purple Heart recipient. For her strength through adversity and continued commitment to her country, Danielle Green will be honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service at The 2015 ESPYS Presented by Capital One on July 15.
One of the first female troops injured in Iraq, Green returned home without the dominant arm that had propelled her basketball career. Despite this, she returned to school, earned her master’s, and devoted herself to helping other service members. Today, she works for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Supervisory Readjustment Counseling Therapist at the South Bend Vet Center near her alma mater. She provides post-war veterans and their family members and veterans who report military sexual trauma with readjustment counseling services. She provides quality care to those combat veterans who suffer from the mental scars of war while assisting them with their transition to civilian life.
In 2014, the inaugural recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service was Josh Sweeney, a Purple Heart recipient and a member of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team that won the gold medal at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Sweeney became a bilateral amputee after being injured by an improvised explosive device in October of 2009 while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. An able-bodied hockey player throughout high school, the war veteran was immediately drawn to sled hockey during his rehabilitation and worked his way to becoming a forward for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team.
Sweeney scored the game-winning goal in the 2014 gold medal game against Russia, leading Team USA to its second straight gold at the Paralympics.
Sgt. Elizabeth Marks will be presented with the Pat Tillman Service Award at The 2016 ESPYS in conjunction with the Pat Tillman Foundation, a national leader in providing academic support and scholarships to veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses. Past honorees include U.S. Paralympic gold medal sled hockey player and Purple Heart recipient Josh Sweeney (2014), and Former Notre Dame basketball player, Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (2015).
“Pat lived his life with passion, intensity and a commitment to help others live up to their potential,” said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “As a combat medic and now world-class paraswimmer, Sgt. Marks embodies the same strong sense of duty – challenging herself, fellow soldiers and her teammates, physically and mentally, to push limits and achieve their best in spite of injury or other setbacks. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to present the Tillman Award to Sgt. Marks for her service, leadership and incredible poise as she represents Team USA.”
The 2016 ESPYS, hosted by WWE Superstar John Cena, will air live on Wednesday, July 13, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC from Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Tickets are available for public purchase at AXS.com.