first published on November 25, 2019 by Funker
NFL legend Rocky Bleier returned to the Vietnam War battlefield he had nearly died on 50 years prior, and that emotional experience is documented in the following video.
Bleier completed his rookie season as a halfback for the Pittsburgh Steelers but was drafted into the US Army soon after. He was sent to Vietnam as an infantry 40mm grenadier in May 1969 with Company C, 4th Battalion (Light), 31st Infantry 196th Light Infantry Brigade.
Four months into his tour, Bleier was shot in the thigh during a hellacious battle. Immediately after being wounded the first time, an enemy grenade was lobbed into his position and detonated at his feet.
The grenade showered his leg with shrapnel and blew off a portion of his right foot. Unlike many of his brethren, Bleier was “lucky” enough to make it off the battlefield alive. He was awarded a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, but also underwent several surgeries.
Doctors told Bleier he would never play football again, but after receiving a letter from Steelers’ owner Art Rooney stating “Rocky … we need you” he was determined to beat the odds and get back on the field.
Bleier beat the odds. For multiple seasons he fought through agonizing pain on the backup squads and eventually made it to special teams. By 1974, Rocky was in his best shape ever and made the starting lineup as a running back. He played in the first four Steeler Super Bowl victories and went on to become one of the Steelers’ all-time top rushers.
The emotional video of his return trip to Vietnam shows that the war was always at the forefront of his mind. His thoughts forever stuck on those that never made it home. He poses the question many of us ask ourselves after experiencing brutal combat: “For what?”
Personally, I’m disgusted with the level of devotion many Americans have to otherwise meaningless professional sports teams and the hero status awarded to athletes. However, Rocky Bleier came back from the war (literally broken), but went on to live a life of great accomplishment, which truly honors those that gave their lives. Bleier may be an NFL legend, but he is also a true American hero.