On March 9th, we participated in honoring our country’s wounded soldiers, veterans and active duty service men and women at the Soldiers’ Angels gala night titled, “A Tribute to Heroes and Angels.” It was an amazing evening filled with pride among soldiers past and present who shared stories of their tours of duty, camaraderie and battles in the field. It didn’t matter whether they served in Vietnam or the current war in Afghanistan, the two things they all had in common were humility when described as heroes and pride when addressed as U.S. soldiers.
It was also a night to honor the “Angels” — all volunteers who live across different parts of the country, but united with a common goal–to assist in helping our military personnel who are in need. Today, there are more than 300,000 Soldiers’ Angels that provide everything from care packages sent overseas to adopting returning soldiers.
One of the night’s honorees was Rocky Bleier who was awarded the Don McKay Award, which is given annually to a veteran that exemplifies volunteerism, dedication and support to our veterans and service members. He was also the keynote speaker and he did say that many won’t recognize his name. He is, however, a legend who was drafted in 1968 to go to Vietnam after playing his rookie season with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bleier was hit with a bullet in his left thigh when his platoon was ambushed and was later awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Upon returning the U.S., he was told by medical experts that he won’t be able to play football professionally again because of his injury. Well, the fighting spirit of the American soldier is far more too powerful than medical experts. Bleier spent two years trying to regain a spot on the Steelers’ active roster and was waived a couple of times. But an intensive training regimen and never surrender attitude during the off season brought Bleier back.
From that point in time, he was in the Steelers starting lineup and won four Super Bowl victories highlighted by the famous catch from NFL legend QB Terry Bradshaw during Super Bowl XIII, which gave the Steelers the lead that it never relinquished. At the end of his career, Bleier was the fourth all-time rusher in Steelers history.
That’s the kind of story that makes all of us proud to be Americans. It is why Iron Cactus is proud to support our troops. We are humbled and honored to have a partnership with Soldiers’ Angels. We will keep you posted on upcoming events with them in San Antonio. If you’d like to donate directly to Soldiers’ Angels, please visit http://soldiersangels.org.
In the immortal words of Soldiers’ Angels founder, Patti Patton-Bader, the grandniece of a true American hero, General George S. Patton:
“May No Soldier go Unloved.
May No Soldier Walk Alone.
May No Soldier Be Forgotten,
Until they all come home”