A day to honor those who served

The Steelers join the rest of the country honoring those who have served on Veterans Day, saluting the men and women who have given unselfishly and sacrificed so much for our country.

Throughout the month of November, and as a part of the Salute to Service initiative, the team has celebrated those who served in many ways.

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Retired United States Army Sergeant First Class Nelson E. Lowes was a special guest of the team at Monday night's game against the Bears at Heinz Field.

Lowes was selected as the Steelers Fan of the Year, a program done in conjunction with the NFL where 32 fans are being selected league wide for their support of their team.

Lowes, who is originally from Johnstown, Pa., served 22 years of active duty, including with the 101st Airborne during the Vietnam War.

Having a love of football in his heart, especially for the Steelers during the tough times in the 1950s and 1960s, he wanted to be involved with the game during his time in the Army. While stationed in Germany he volunteered during his off time to coach youth football, picking up on something he started to do while he was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland, when he was the director of youth athletics, coaching the Ft. Meade Cougars in Pop Warner football. He also volunteered to coach at Forestville High School, where his team won a Maryland state championship.

He didn't stop giving back after his service ended. He spent an additional 20 years teaching Junior ROTC in Prince George County schools in Maryland, while continuing to coach. He returned home to Pennsylvania, teaching the Junior ROTC program at Valley High School in New Kensington until 2006.

Lowes also continued to serve as VFW State Surgeon, where he was the chairman of the Health Committee and promoted and implemented programs for his community and state. He traveled to Washington, D.C. twice a year to advocate for Pennsylvania veterans with members of Congress, and also visited area VA Hospitals to ensure veterans were receiving the best care possible.

And while he gave so much of his time to the military and veterans, he also gave his time to his family, and raised his four kids to be proud Steelers fans. And that's why Rocky Bleier, a Vietnam Veteran himself, shared the news with Lowes that he won the honor and an all-expense paid trip for two to see the Steelers play the Bears and do the Terrible Towel Twirl along with Bleier and Bret Michaels.

"I was born into being a Steelers fan," said Lowes, who got emotional when he learned he won the honor. "I fell in love with it when I started watching football as a youngster and I watch the Steelers for the last 65 years. I remember all of the Super Bowls."

He then told Bleier, "When I found out you were a Vietnam Veteran, you became my favorite player."

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Tight end Eric Ebron surprised 10 veterans who are part of the Veterans Place Minority Veteran Program with banners that honored their service, as well as tickets for the Steelers-Bears game.

The group received their banners, which hung on Art Rooney Avenue on Monday night, and tickets during a surprise visit by Ebron at Heinz Field.

"I want to say personally, and for our Steelers organization, staff and team, I want to say thank you," said Ebron. "I have a few family members that have served. My dad was a Marine. My grandfather was also. My grandfather served in three wars. Crazy to our family. His nickname was Lucky, obviously. He was a huge staple in our family. When we describe him, if they have Peyton Manning outside of Lucas Oil (Stadium), we would have our grandfather outside. That's who helped support us.

"On behalf of us, the Rooney family, the Steelers organization, we're going to give all of you a banner with your name on it outside on Art Rooney Avenue. It's showing the support for what you did for us. Then when you come to the game on Monday night, you can go see it."

Ebron spent time talking to the veterans, posing for pictures, and just thanking them for all they have done for our country.

"This was a no brainer," said Ebron. "Being a part of this event, it being a part of my family, it's easy for me to do. It makes total sense. I am luckier to be in their presence than they are in mine. I am lucky to get to see them. I am thankful to be able to talk to them and them to be home with their families."

The Steelers had other events as a part of Salute to Service, an initiative that Ebron enjoys.

"I think it's important the same way we make all the cancers important (during Crucial Catch month)," said Ebron. "It's important to understand there are people out there fighting every day, protecting us in some way, shape, form or fashion. I think that is important.

"The fact that we acknowledge it to show we care. I am happy the NFL has it as a part of their agenda."

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