I think it’s probably safe to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a better relationship with the military than do most teams. The truth of the matter is that a lot of the tributes and honors that we see teams make toward the services and servicemen and women are hollow gestures designed to pander to a demographic. Teams actual receive money from the Department of Defense for some ‘salute to service’ displays.
It’s different for the Steelers, among whose roster is one of the most widely-recognized offensive linemen in the entire league—perhaps the most—in former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva. His patriotism is certainly genuine, and others draw from that.
The Army recently recognized the Steelers organization’s sincere support of the military and of those who have served, honoring them with a plaque that says thanks to the franchise for what they have done to honor and aid the country’s armed defenders, according to the team’s website.
“For an organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers to ensure U.S. Army Soldiers in the Pittsburgh-area have an opportunity to participate in aspects like the Color Guard during the pregame National Anthem ceremonies and participate in on-field game day activities, is unbelievable” Sergeant First Class David Beckett told Steelers.com.
“The morale boost and the cheers from Steeler Nation that our Soldiers receive is truly an amazing experience”, he went on. Villanueva and the organization recently went directly to the frontline of one of the greatest issues facing veterans returning from active service: homelessness.
I wrote about the trip Villanueva and other members of the organization took to Veterans Place, a facility dedicated to helping to get veterans back on their feet, last month. They brought refrigerators and tv sets with which to furnish their residences.
The article from the team’s website notes that the plaque was awarded specifically to John Wodarek, an employee of the organization who is the son of a veteran himself. He was reportedly responsible for organizing the activity just described above, and helped to enlist Villanueva’s assistance.
It also points to the origins of the organization’s ties to the military. Art Rooney’s brother Tom was killed in action during World War II, and he strove to provide assistance to military families from that point forward, a mission that his son, and then his grandson, have helped to continue to carry out today.