Retired Marine Sergeant Doug Vitale and his wife Alexis were special guests at Steelers practice on Monday, watching from the sidelines and taking in all of the action, and you could tell from the smile on his face how much it meant to him.
“This is awesome,” said Alexis Vitale. “We are from Pittsburgh and lived in different states in our Marine Corps life and always followed the Steelers. Doug is in his glory right now.”
Vitale, 26, stepped on a land mine back in 2011 while on patrol with his unit in Afghanistan, and lost both of his legs and has suffered strokes on both sides of his brain. Vitale lost his speech and was paralyzed on the right side.
Decked out in his Steelers jersey, with his prostatic leg wrapped in the Steelers logo, you could tell he was a hero to many of the players and staff that visited with him.
“We love the Steelers,” said Alexis. “As a country we love football. I think it’s awesome to get the support of people who are in the public eye so much. For them to support us means a lot.”
Vitale returned home to Pittsburgh on Saturday for the first time since his injuries. He had been receiving treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Tampa, Florida for almost two years.
He was welcomed home with a parade on Saturday, and then off to Steelers camp on Monday.
The Vitales will soon be recipients of a “Smart Home” through the Building for America's Bravest program, providing them with a living environment that will make life functional for Vitale.
A benefit concert hosted by actor Gary Sinise and the Gary Sinise Foundation and Tunnel to Towers Foundation, will held at Stage AE on Friday, August 9, which will include a performance by Sinise's Lt. Dan Band.
Tickets for the concert can be purchased at www.operationdoug.com.
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Donations can also be made to either foundation to help Vitale and other American heroes like him.
Visit the Gary Sinise Foundation and donate to Building For America’s Bravest program at
Donations can also be made to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Building For America’s Bravest program.