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Arizona university honors Pat Tillman with veteran center

File photo of former NFL star and U.S. Soldier Pat Tillman
File photo of former NFL star and U.S. Soldier Pat Tillman

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The alma mater of football star turned soldier Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan while serving with the U.S. Army, honored him on Tuesday with a veterans' center in his name.

Arizona State University's Pat Tillman Veterans Center provides a point of contact for student veterans and their dependents to meet up at the university's campus in Tempe, in the Phoenix valley.

Tillman's widow, Marie, said in a statement released on Tuesday that the center honored her husband and "all veterans and military families" by ensuring they have access to support in their transition to student life.

Tillman gave up a multimillion dollar career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the military in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

He served in the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. The U.S. military initially said he was shot in an ambush, but a subsequent investigation determined he was killed by friendly fire.

ASU said the center seeks to bring together academic and student support services to promote a smooth transition to student life for veterans and their families.

It also provides assistance for veterans' benefits, deployments, information, and referrals, as well as a place where they can gather for study and social activities, it said.

Tillman's widow said veteran students faced unique challenges related to financial aid and adjusting to campus life, as well as "a general lack of understanding of their experience by their classmates."

"In addition to offering innovative academic support and resources, the Veterans Center will address these needs by providing a place where veterans can find a strong sense of community on campus," she added.

The circumstances of Tillman's death were never conclusively determined. His family's efforts prompted a congressional probe, but it failed to assign blame in the cover-up.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)