For his part, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was featured in a video message titled ‘Something Bigger,’ one released by The Players Tribune via Twitter.
In it Villaneueva describes joining the Army as “truly the best decision that I ever made in my life…. For me it was never about something that I wanted to do personally. I just wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.”
“I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. It truly was the best decision that I ever made in my life.”@steelers offensive tackle and U.S. Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva shares his story in a salute to all those who serve. #MemorialDay pic.twitter.com/R0PtYVxPUu
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) May 25, 2020
“I became very close to a lot of my classmates,” Villanueva continued. “Your willingness to fight for each other is always more valuable than how fast you can run two miles or how many pushups you can do. It’s never about you. It’s never about what you can bring to the table. It’s more of a ‘What is it that you can do for others and how are you going to sacrifice yourself for others?’”
Villanueva, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, was assigned to the Tenth Mountain Division and served in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.
Alejandro Villanueva on Football, The Army
“The first deployment, just like in a football game, you’ve done it in training, but at some point, you have to do it in real life. I was able to do it with the help of unbelievable NCOs [non-commissioned officers]. They cared about me as another member of the platoon.”
But these days what Villanueva remembers most about his time in the military are the relationships he developed with fellow soldiers.
“Being out of the military for five years now, the things you do remember are not the firefights, not the scary moments, not the bombs that you blew up,” Villaneuva said. “It’s just the soliders you were serving with and the relationships you had with them.
“Every single time I have the opportunity to thank anybody who has joined the military I always take the time to thank them for their service, for their sacrifices and [for the sacrifice of] their families.”
Villanueva, 31, has been the Steelers’ starting left tackle since 2015. He is entering the final year of his contract.
‘Something Bigger’ was sponsored by USAA Insurance, for which Villaneuva is a paid endorser.
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Ben Roethlisberger Featured in ‘Carry the Load’ Video
Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger also appeared in a Memorial Day video, one produced by singer/songwriter Bart Millard of MercyMe, whose cousin, Lt. Todd Krodle, was killed in the line of duty in 2011.
“The weight of his memory is still just as heavy now as it was then,” Millard said. “So I reached out to some of my friends and asked them if they can help me carry this load. And they answered the call. So this Memorial Day I am carrying Lt. Todd Krodle,” a message echoed by all those who appear in the video.
“This Memorial Day I am carrying Lt. Todd Krodle,” Roethlisberger says, the first to appear in the clip after Millard’s bandmates and Millard’s brother.
Also appearing in the video are musical artists Kirk Franklin, Trace Adkins, and Michael W. Smith, plus Amy Grant and Vince Gill. Others included are: Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs, Mike Matheny, manager of the Kansas City Royals, and Olympic gold medalist/cancer survivor Scott Hamilton.
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