Steelers Players Honor Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day


Getty Alejandro Villanueva [at right], sitting on the bench with Pittsburgh Steelers teammates during a game last December.

“It’s a day that has become known as the unofficial start of summer…. For Rocky Bleier and many others, Memorial Day means much, much more.” So begins Teresa Varley’s essay at about ‘What this day really means,’ in which former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier reminds us to not lose sight of the meaning of Memorial Day.

Rocky Bleier on Memorial Day

“At times we have lost the sense of what it really stands for” Bleier said. “That is to honor not necessarily those who served the country, but those who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave up their lives in serving their country.”

And more than that, to not forget the sacrifices made by the families of those who have lost loved ones.

Bleier served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, and was wounded by enemy gunfire during a mission to recover the bodies of soliders who had been killed in an ambush. So he lives with the pain of having lost friends on the battlefield—and understands how community support can promote healing.

“The biggest thing is a community can pay tribute to the servicemen or women who gave their life….” Bleier said. “It becomes very heart-warming, but also a support mechanism that you are not alone, [that] we do appreciate the sacrifice that has been made. And as best as we possibly can we are here to support [those] who have been left behind. That community, especially on this day, even if it’s just one day, becomes so important in the healing process for those who have to live with the ultimate sacrifice that has been paid.”

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Alejandro Villanueva’s Touching Memorial Day Video Essay

Similarly, current Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva understands what it’s like to lose friends on the battlefield.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to watch Villanueva’s 2018 Memorial Day video tribute to this county’s fallen soldiers.

The Steelers' Alejandro Villanueva shares the meaning of Memorial Day | SC FeaturedU.S. Army veteran and Pittsburgh Steelers OT Alejandro Villanueva shares a powerful essay about what Memorial Day means to him. ✔ Subscribe to ESPN on YouTube: ✔ Watch Latest Episodes on WatchESPN: ✔ Watch ESPN on YouTube TV: Get more ESPN on YouTube: ► First Take: ► SportsCenter with SVP:…2018-05-27T15:58:45Z

As you may know, before Villanueva made it in the NFL, he was a graduate of West Point Military Academy—and a soldier.

In the ESPN-produced video he acknowledges that “Memorial Day means different things for different people, [but] for those of us who served, the meaning is pretty obvious. You remember those who are lost, who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Villanueva goes on to pay tribute to a friend that he served with in Afghanistan, Jesse Dietrich, who was killed when their platoon was ambushed by the Taliban. Dietrich is one of more than a million Americans who have lost their lives in combat. He was just 20 years old when he was killed, and he left behind a two-year-old son named Kevin.

“If you do one thing this Memorial Day, think about those who sacrificed, think of the 1.1 million and their families,” Villanueva said. “Think about my friend Jesse, who was buried on the plains of Texas, under an oak tree older than the holiday itself. And think about the grave that is being decorated today by the son who never got to know his dad.”

“Serving my country was the greatest honor of my life,” Villanueva concludes, “but not everyone gets to come home to their family and loved ones, like I did.”

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