A night for true heroes

If you search for the qualities of what an individual who serves in the military has, there are a boatload of admirable ones that you quickly find.

Courageous. Honorable. Loyal. Leader.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

There is however one word you don't often see to describe them, most likely because that isn't how they look at themselves.

But they should.

Hero.

The men and women who served in the United States Military are the true heroes in this country, something that doesn't get lost on those in the Steelers organization.

And that is why for the 13th year the team hosted 'Heroes at Heinz Field,' an event to honor the men and women who truly embody what being a hero is all about.

The Steelers hosted Heroes at Heinz Field, giving back to veterans

The Steelers worked with four local organizations, Veterans Leadership Program, The Mission Continues, Veterans Breakfast Club and Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard, to bring the veterans to Heinz Field for an evening of fun and football.

"Our veterans, unfortunately they are down on their luck a lot of the time and they come to Veterans Place looking for some uplifting," said Rob Hamilton, Executive Director of Veterans Place. "The Steelers dedicating their time and this space to help our veterans means everything to them. This is amazing. We had our veterans having a great time and really showing them the community is behind them and supports them especially with everything going on in the community right now."

Before they became immersed in football, a somber moment of silence was held to honor all of the lives lost in the attacks of September 11, 2001, with the 20th anniversary of that horrific time just days away.

After honoring those lost, it was a rightful time for the veterans to relax and enjoy some fun on the field.

The veterans took part in three different football stations, learning the art of passing, receiving and field goal kicking from the players.

"It's a privilege to meet and greet them, throw some balls around, spend the afternoon with them," said Mason Rudolph, who has had family who served in the military. "I have a great deal of respect for anyone who serves our country, gives their lives.

"What they have given, the training and the sacrifice they made for us to be able to live a free life is unbelievable. We should all be thankful for them and what they've done."

Also taking part were Carlos Davis, Zach Gentry, J.C. Hassenauer, Christian Kuntz, Robert Spillane and Cody White.

"These people deserve it," said Gentry, whose grandfather was in the Navy. "I get to share my appreciation for everything they did. People who are willing to risk everything for their country means a lot."

It meant just as much to the veterans. There were smiles as they attempted to hit a field goal, and laughter when they realized how tough it was. It was a perfect escape, a night to bond with each other and let their cares evaporate for a while.

"It means a lot to be here," said veteran Blair Mickles. "It reminds me a lot of back in the Army days, working as a team to accomplish the goals. Like the Steelers, they get out here and put on their game face and play. We do the same thing. Just like the Steelers, you have to keep pushing.

"It's very uplifting. I know personally I don't often openly identify as a veteran because you get a lot of mixed reviews. But for the community to show they appreciate the sacrifices we made, the contributions we made to our country, big or small, to see them appreciate that, it means a lot to me."

The veterans posed for pictures with the players, many of them sharing how much watching the Steelers play means to them and how they view the players as heroes.

For the players, it was the other way around.

"It's special. Having family in the military, seeing what it means to them. It means more to us than they think it does," said Christian Kuntz. "It's a special time for them, but it's a special time for us.

"We are not the heroes. We have been playing football our whole lives. We aren't sacrificing for our country the way they are. They are the true heroes that put it all on the line and make this country as safe and free as it is. It's amazing to be around these types of people."

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