NFL anthem superstar pulled wounded U.S. soldiers from Taliban fire

By Chelsea Schilling

Former U.S. Army Ranger officer Alejandro Villanueva, player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, refused to sit out the national anthem with his team on Sept. 24 (Photo: NFL screenshot posted to Twitter)

Former U.S. Army Ranger officer Alejandro Villanueva, player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, refused to sit out the national anthem with his team on Sept. 24 (Photo: NFL screenshot posted to Twitter)

Former U.S. Army Ranger officer Alejandro Villanueva – the Pittsburgh Steelers player who is being hailed as a hero after he defied his whole team Sunday and stood for the national anthem – actually earned his true hero status three years before he played professional football.

Villanueva earned a Bronze Star with valor after he reportedly pulled three wounded U.S. soldiers out of the line of Taliban fire in 2011.

During a 2014 interview with ESPN, Villanueva recalled the Aug. 25, 2011, incident in Afghanistan when he was a lieutenant, 23-year-old Army football player and rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

Alejandro Villanueva, the U.S. Army Ranger who was signed by the NFL following three tours of duty in Afghanistan

Alejandro Villanueva, the U.S. Army Ranger who was signed by the NFL following three tours of duty in Afghanistan

Several Taliban insurgents were embedded in Kandahar village when Villanueva’s Army Ranger’s unit came on the scene. But when the U.S. troops arrived, the Taliban were nowhere to be seen. So they began questioning an Afghan elder about the terrorists’ whereabouts.

ESPN described that fateful day:

“As the elder began to explain, Villanueva and his troops were ambushed by as many as eight Taliban militants in a spray of bullets.”

Spc. Martin Piggott was shot in the kneecap. Sgt. Roy Dutton was shot in the back of the leg. Army Pvt. 1st Class Jesse Dietrich was shot near the armpit. Under heavy fire, Villanueva pulled the wounded Dietrich down an alley and into Click to see the original article      


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