After Pat’s death, his wife and high school sweetheart, Marie, set up the Pat Tillman Foundation to support veterans and their spouses with academic scholarships. She continues to work to create a positive legacy in his name and remind people that Pat was a complex man who served in the military while opposing the Iraq War.
"As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify," Marie Tillman said in a statement in 2017. "It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together. Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that. Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day.
"The very action of self-expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn’t always agree with those views. It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat’s life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans."
However, she believes no one can speak for him, including her. She wrote an opinion piece on the subject for The Washington Post in 2018 that also commented on the NFL kneeling protests:
"Over the years, I've become used to people wanting to know what he would have thought about something in the news, or assign a way of thinking to him based on what they know about who he was at 27. They want to freeze him in time. I find it ironic because Pat was always known as a free thinker who was constantly growing. He was very different when we got together at 16 from who he was at 27, and he would have been different, too, at 42. We should be able to respect his willingness to sacrifice for what he believed in without looking at it through the lens of today's divisive political climate. So while I still refuse to speak for Pat, I will speak as a widow, a wife, a mother, an American and, yes, a patriot.
"I think that patriotism is complex, like Pat himself. It is not blind or unquestioning. And it's a fool's errand to argue over who's allowed to claim sacrifice. Many of the kneeling athletes say they are protesting as American patriots who want the nation to be better than it is. When I look around at the vitriol aimed at them for expressing their beliefs, and at the compulsion to simplify complicated issues to pit people on opposing sides, I want to kneel, too. Because I believe we are at our best as Americans when we engage in constructive dialogue around our differences with the goal of understanding one another."
In April 2020, to commemorate the 16th anniversary of Pat’s death, the Pat Tillman Foundation got creative to hold its annual run in his honor.