The Steelers appreciation for the men and women of the Armed Forces has been on display throughout the 2014 season, and included honoring those who have served our country as a part of the NFL's Salute to Service when they hosted the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on Nov. 2.
"It's something you feel good about; being able to recognize what these veterans have done for our country and call some attention to that," said Steelers' President Art Rooney II. "It's something that continues to grow in importance. People enjoy seeing the veterans at the game and showing them their appreciation."*
The salute was highlighted by honoring veterans from different wars, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Iraq and Afghanistan, during a pregame ceremony as a way of saying thank you to those who have given so much.
"It comes from the support we have gotten from the military throughout the years," said Rooney. "The pictures we get from veterans who take pictures of where they are with a Terrible Towel. It's nice to be able to give back to them, recognize them and let them know we appreciate what they do."*
*The Steelers also have their own veteran on the roster, as Army Captain Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive lineman on the practice squad, served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and is currently serving in the Army Reserve.
"The personal sacrifice they make for a greater cause is amazing," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "For people to lay their lives on the line to protect the lives and dreams of others I think is an unselfish act and a building block of what our country is built on."
Earlier this season the Steelers hosted "Heroes at Heinz Field," an event annually done in conjunction with VA Healthcare VISN 4 to honor veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan who are now adjusting to civilian life. It was an opportunity for players to say thank you to the veterans who give so much.
"You can't imagine what it means to these service members," said Buzz Bryan, Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom transition patient advocate for VISN 4. "The Steelers are their heroes. What they do on the field brings them joy. They might be going through a tough time and they turn on the Steelers game and it brings joy to them that you can't explain."
Take a look at some photos of the Steelers supporting those who have served our country in the Military. Brought to you by ATI.
Many Steelers' players, coaches and staff have had parents, siblings, children and other family members serve in the military, making the upcoming Veterans Day special to all in the organization.
"They keep our country safe," said Cortez Allen, who attended The Citadel and his brother is United States Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Anthony "A lot of the privileges and freedoms we have to do certain things are because of them. You look at the wars in different countries, and what they fight over, and how some are overrun by neighboring countries, you don't have that problem here because of our military. The sacrifices they make being away from their families, the things they do to keep us safe and look over the country. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.
"What we do and what they do, any military force, there is no comparison. We go and play video games online and they do it for real. It's very real what they do. It's not a game to them. I have so much respect for what they do. How many of us would sacrifice our lives and time with family to lay it on the line for someone else, someone you don't know, for your country. That's a hat off to them for a job well done."
Former Steelers offensive lineman Craig Wolfley understands the commitment those in the military make, as his son Captain Kyle Jacob Wolfley, is among the brave individuals fighting for freedom.
"We played a game," said Wolfley. "There are rules. You can't do certain things. There are fines. The military, this is life and death we are talking about for our men and women who serve. The sacrifice they make for us, with awesome courage, fortitude and ability is amazing. You can talk about the toughest guy in the NFL. You are talking about another league, another world when you are talking about our men and women in the fighting fields across the world.
"When I shake the hand of a man or woman who serves their country, I am humbled as a man. When I shake the hand of a man or woman who has served in combat, I am diminished as a man."