Veterans Day is a day of profound gratitude. We honor those who served our country and remember those who have fallen.

In sports this weekend, teams and athletes are saluting veterans in unique ways.

Take for example Pittsburgh Steelers starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. The former Army Ranger thoughtfully handed out special helmet decals to each of his teammates for them to wear on Sunday as they take on the Indianapolis Colts. Each decal represents an Army infantry division.

Villanueva, a West Point graduate who entered the NFL in his mid-20s after fulfilling his military commitments, carefully distributed specific decals to the appropriate teammates.

”I believe that we have the best corners in the NFL, so I assign them the best division in (the army), which is the 10th Mountain Division,” said Villanueva, who was assigned to the unit for a counter terrorism tour in Afghanistan. ”Obviously, I am biased. But I think they really are.” (Sports Illustrated)

Villanueva got candid about the NFL’s “Salute to Service” month. While the intention is good, he believes there are better ways for the league to connect with individual service men and women.

”I see the NFL try these attempts to honor the military,” Villanueva told Sports Illustrated, ”but as somebody who was in the military, I know exactly what means a lot to me. When I see a `U.S. Army’ (logo), I say, `Yeah, cool.’ But it doesn’t really speak a lot to me. But you see, `Oh, holy smokes, that’s `The 82nd,’ or the `3rd I.D.’ and Cameron Heyward is from Georgia, and so he’s wearing the 3rd I.D, if the player knew the impact that he has on that specific unit, and he makes a play and you see the patch: 3rd I.D. those are huge. That means a lot more. It’s almost like showing something you can truly identify with.”

And, face-to-face meetings are certainly one way to go about it.

On Friday, Villanueva was the first Steelers’ player to meet 100-year-old Charles Wiggins, a World War II Navy veteran who was presented with a jersey (No. 100) after practice.



“That was special,” Wiggins said after his visit. “I am glad that we were able to serve our country and be here to enjoy it today.”

Here’s a look at more special ways those in sports are recognizing veterans this weekend:

Arizona State is honoring Pat Tillman and veterans with special adidas uniforms.