September 11, 2012, was a beautiful evening quite unlike the same date 11 years before. On the anniversary of one of our Nation's most somber days, the Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed 72 Veterans from VISN 4 to Heinz Field for an evening of honor, football and food.
The annual event, Heroes at Heinz Field, began with a moment of silence to commemorate those lost on 9/11. Afterwards, the Steelers provided the Veterans and their guests with a memorable practice on their home field.
The Veterans participated in kicking, throwing and catching drills and ate dinner at Heinz Field following the practice session.
Christopher Morris, a Marine Veteran from Washington, Pa., worked up an appetite playing alongside the Steelers.
"I just made a 15-yard field goal at Heinz Field," said Morris. "How many people get to say that?"
Eleven current players attended and said they felt lucky to be able to thank the Veterans for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan personally.
"They're the ones who are making the sacrifice for all of us in this country," said defensive end Brett Kiesel. "It's great to be able to come down and personally thank them."
Morris wore the Purple Heart medal he earned during a tour in Afghanistan in 2009. He said it was to honor the "Pittsburgh Steelers fans in Afghanistan who didn't make it back."
Steelers offensive lineman Max Starks shared his admiration for the Veterans and humbly summed up the motivation behind the event.
"These are the men and women who lay their lives on the line to protect our freedom and allow me to come out here on Sundays with peace of mind," said Starks. "The chance to say thank you means a lot."
Several stories also appeared in various local media outlets: