Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has one of the most interesting stories in the NFL.
Villanueva graduated from West Point, and while there he walked onto the Army football team. Before beginning his career with the Eagles in 2014, he served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. He is a decorated Army Ranger, winning a National Service Medal and a bronze star.
However, he revealed that a big reason why he served the final two tours in Afghanistan was due to the struggles he had once he returned home.
“Now I started developing a fear of flying. I started developing even a fear of bacon because it can give you cancer,” Villanueva said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette. “So you start developing all these things because you’re like ‘Holy smokes, I’m a healthy 20-year-old now back in normal society, I have a life expectancy. I don’t have to die tomorrow.’ It’s a very tough thing to reconcile in your mind. It causes a lot of stress. I think that’s one of the main reason for PTSD is that I was ready to die and now I don’t have to die.
“It gave me a lot of anxiety. I’ve never talked about this with the media, but it did give me a lot of anxiety when I got back. I think that’s one of the reasons I had to go back to Afghanistan, I was fighting to get back to Afghanistan because obviously I just didn’t feel comfortable.”
During this past offseason he signed a new four-year contract with the Steelers to continue as their starting left tackle, and has a good chance at becoming a Super Bowl champion. However, he was once like some others who have served this country, dealing with the struggles of adjusting to civilian life after combat.
When thinking of ways to pay tribute to the military, helping with that struggle is a good place to start.