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Pittsburgh Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva reflects on meaning of Memorial Day

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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates the game-winning touchdown with Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva (78) in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens on December 25, 2016. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

By The Sports Xchange, UPI

Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours of duty as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, reflected on the meaning of Memorial Day in a video segment on ESPN.

The video was posted Sunday as part of SportsCenter's SC Featured segment. The approximately five-minute video shows him visiting graves of fallen soldiers and acknowledging all soldiers who did not return alive from combat while explaining the history of Memorial Day.

About halfway through the video, Villanueva remembers fallen solider Jesse Dietrich, whom he served with in the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan. While stationed in the Kandahar Province, Dietrich was killed in an ambush by Taliban forces on Aug. 25, 2011 trying to stop a firefight between the Taliban and Afghan civilians.

"Memorial Day means different things to different people," Villanueva said in the video. "For those of us who served, that meaning is pretty obvious. You remember those who were lost, who made the ultimate sacrifice. Serving my country was the greatest honor of my life.

"Today, decorating graves is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Memorial Day. I suppose it's human nature - we want to celebrate life, not reflect on death. And on this day, that's possible because of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Villanueva joined the Steelers after being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. He was named Pittsburgh's starting left tackle before the 2016 season and signed a four-year contract extension before the 2017 season.

Last season, he gained national exposure for being the only Steeler to stand on the field for the national anthem. The entire team opted to stay in the locker room, but Villanueva wanted to stand in front of the tunnel to get a vantage point to see the flag.

A day after the protests, Villanueva said the separation from the team was unintentional and blamed himself.

Villanueva was born on a naval air station in Mississippi, spent part of his childhood in Europe and played college ball while attending the U.S. Military Academy (Army). He graduated from Army in 2010 and eventually was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was awarded a Bronze Star.

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Sports - U.S. Daily News: Pittsburgh Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva reflects on meaning of Memorial Day
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