Twitter Pat Tillman

After Donald Trump retweeted a post that used a photo of Pat Tillman to call for a boycott of the NFL, the widow of the football star turned Army Ranger said his service should "never be politicized in a way that divides us."

The original tweet from user @jayMAGA45 read: "NFLplayer PatTillman joined U.S. Army in 2002. He was killed in action 2004. He fought 4our country/freedom. #StandForOurAnthem #BoycottNFL"

But Marie Tillman's statement to CNN's Brian Stelter went beyond the request to stop using Pat's memory for partisan causes: "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."

Pat Tillman walked away from the NFL after four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals because the 9/11 attacks had inspired him to join the military. He was killed in a friendly-fire tragedy in Afghanstan in 2004.

Here is Marie Tillman's full statement to CNN:

"As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify. 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.

Marie Tillman

"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."

The Tillman family has been vigilant in preventing anyone from exploiting his service or death, particularly after the government initially covered up the manner in which he had been killed, saying it had been the result of enemy fire.

"They attached themselves to his virtue and then threw him under the bus," his mother, Mary, told Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated in 2006. "They had no regard for him as a person. He'd hate to be used for a lie."

In 2007, the family released a statement that ripped an Army investigation into the details of Pat's death:

"The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family: but more importantly, it's primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation. We say these things with disappointment and sadness for our country. Nonetheless, we will continue our search for the truth. The truth is not what we received today. Once again, we have been used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise."

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