View Full Version : Steelers salute wounded veterans at Heinz Field

09-15-2010, 12:24 AM

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Steelers salute wounded veterans at Heinz Field

By Ralph N. Paulk
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Only five weeks ago, James Plummer narrowly survived a flurry of scattered rounds from an enemy machine gun during a fire fight in Afghanistan.

Plummer was on a routine patrol Aug. 9 when he was targeted by a sniper only three weeks after his arrival in an increasingly hostile combat zone. The 21-year-old Marine bares the scars of a war in which many other servicemen and women have sacrificed their lives.

"I remember walking past a machine nest, and they just lit me up," Plummer said. "I was lucky they only hit my arm."

Plummer, a Huntington native, still faces several surgeries to repair severed arteries. He is beginning to heal - both mentally and physically. Yet, the metal screws holding together his severed bone reflect just how far the road to recovery for Plummer and other wounded veterans.

On Tuesday, the Steelers and VA Healthcare-VISN 4 partner to provide a special evening of football for veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom at Heinz Field.

It's the third year in which the Steelers have hosted an event that was established to show their appreciation for thousands of wounded veterans, most of whom are treated in one of five Pittsburgh-area hospitals.

"It's good to talk to someone who's been there," Plummer said. "When you come home, people don't realize what it's like. But most of these veterans have walked in my shoes."

There were 75 veterans who participated in various football drills with several Steelers - including Lawrence Timmons, Jeff Reed, James Farrior and former Steelers Hall of Fame running back Rocky Bleier, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. (:tt04::tt04:Rocky! Rocky! Rocky! I'm so glad my favorite all time Steeler was there. - mesa)

"I kind of feel guilty being here because my team is still in Afghanistan," Plummer said. "Here I am hanging out with the Steelers, but this is awesome.

"I've always wanted to come to Heinz Field or catch a game here. I was never able to because tickets are so hard to get. Just being here is good enough for me. It's more than I could have imagined, especially considering what happened a few weeks ago."

Bleier, of course, understands better than most the plight of America's war veterans. Timmons, too, is developing a greater appreciation for the country's military personnel.

"It means a lot to come here, because they are the reasons why it's safe in America," Timmons said. "They mean a lot to our country. We make our fans happy when we're playing ball, and they make us happy protecting us."

"This is a like a family deal. Everybody knows somebody in the service, or someone who may have fought for our country. It's a joy to do something like this."

Bleier, a long-time member of the Wounded Warrior Project spent much of the evening talking with veterans and their families.

"For the sacrifices they have made and the service they have given, to have this kind of reception is very important," Bleier said. "There was a time when I we came back from Vietnam, we weren't welcomed.

"The thing about veterans, because of what has taken place the last 20 years from the Gulf War to Iraq, we as an American people have to appreciate them. They are just regular guys and gals who have dreams to fulfill.

"For them to see people they cheer for, it's special. In the military we talk about teamwork - boot camp and advance infantry training. It's the same with the Steelers."

In addition to the meeting the players, yesterday's gathering was therapeutic for some. It's their way of assimilating into familiar settings.

"It's hard coming back and transitioning to civilian life," said Lee Poziviak, 26, a former Marine. "Something like this helps put things in perspective. We get a lot thanks, but this is different."

(Just excellent. Exactly what I expect the Steelers to do. - mesa)

09-15-2010, 08:43 PM