Vietnam Veteran overcomes war injuries to win four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers



Secretary Bob McDonald invited Rocky Bleier, Army Vietnam Veteran, Pittsburgh Steelers star and four-time Super Bowl Champion, to the VA to share his gripping story of courage on the battlefields of Vietnam and his time on America’s football fields.

A year after his 1968 rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bleier was drafted for the second time; he entered the U.S. Army in December 1968 during the Vietnam War. Bleier was a squad grenadier and operated a 40mm M79 grenade launcher with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade.

He was in Vietnam for only three months when he was wounded on a patrol when his platoon was ambushed in a rice paddy near Heip Duc. He took a bullet in his left thigh moments before a grenade sent shrapnel through his right leg, removing part of his right foot. Bleier was evacuated to an aid station in Da Nang, Vietnam, to recover from his injuries before being transferred to Tokyo then back to the United States. His doctors told him that he would never play football again.

It was at the field aid station in Da Nang where he met a Veteran that changed his perspective on life. Across from him was a young soldier, a triple amputee who lost his left arm and both legs. Every day before that soldier left for therapy, he’d stop at each bed in the ward, including Bleier’s, to give them words of encouragement.

Rocky Bleier visits VA“He’d stop by my bed and he’d say, ‘Hey, how are you doing today? You know, you look better today than you did yesterday… Now we’ve got some good docs here, they’re going to take care of you. And don’t worry about it, we’ll get you out of here and I’ll see you back in the real world one of these days,’” said Bleier retelling his story. “I thought if anyone could be embittered with their life it would be that young soldier, having to live with those atrocities that we’d seen everyday. But yet he chose to make a positive impact. And I thought, ‘Wow, if he could do that, what about me?’” he said. It was at that moment that Bleier decided then that he would walk again someday.

Bleier overcame his war wounds to win four Super Bowls with the iconic Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s.

Since his retirement from football, Bleier is still involved with the Pittsburgh community. He works with the Veteran Treatments Courts, helping keep Veterans out of jail and working with VA to get Veterans the treatment they need.

“The great success rate that we have there is largely due to people like Rocky who make a difference in the lives of Veterans every single day,” said Secretary Bob McDonald.

To see the full presentation from Rocky Bleier, watch the video on VA’s YouTube page.

Author

Melissa Heintz

- Melissa Heintz joined the VA’s Digital Media Engagement team as a public affairs specialist in October 2015. She grew up on an Army base in Japan before her family relocated to Hawaii. She holds a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications and Spanish from Seattle University. Melissa has served as a public affairs specialist with Navy Region Hawaii Fleet and Family Readiness and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In December 2015, Melissa commissioned in the Rhode Island Air National Guard where she serves as a public affairs officer with the 143rd Airlift Wing.

Comments

  1. Charles Milliren    

    Never knew this. Very inspirational and amazing.

  2. Rich    

    A great story from a great AMERICAN

  3. Jim Buzzell    

    Always admired Rocky, and he is a hero for what he does for his fellow veterans; my question is what ever happened to that young triple amputee that gave Rocky so much encouragement in a time of need?

  4. Rob    

    Awesime story, but the new secretary should be focusing on fixing the VA. EVERY SINGLE VA PROVIDER, NURSE, CASE MANAGER and VETERANS I have talked to all agree that HEALTHNET is a joke, waste of time and taxpayers money. 30 to 90 min wait time to talk to someone. I had 4 providers put in an MRI referal since July to be completed before my appt on tuesday with nuerologist. I SCHEDULED the the MRI and was going to submit it to TriCare and pay copay. Funny how quick they finally moved to fix it after I did leg work. Then there is the $26k in ER visits that even after the 72 hr notificarion VA refused to pay, now hospital requuring me to pay becuase VA cant find where I cakked in each tine, yet Each visit to ER is listed in my medical file from ER as I requested all my records. Im turning this all over to the NEWS, LEGISLATORS, LAYWERS, to get this fixed. Lastly then the fact the VA xancels meds without primary care dictor talking to you first. Or you have to wait 6 months for travel pay. I have it all documented and ready ti fire away. If its hapwnning to me its happening to others especially WWII, KOREA, AND VIETNAM VETS. Im willing to tell my story if anyone wants to hear it, becuase if not its coming to a news, or social media oulet near you soon.

  5. Harold Watson    

    I was a SP4 grunt RTO in Rocky ‘ s battalion in Vietnam…I was with another company in the battalion but in Hiep Duc fighting very near where he was wounded…we were both with the 4/31st Inf, 196th Light Inf Brigade…Rock was well liked and respected by his fellow soldiers…I salute you Rock!

  6. marty Glick    

    It was Art rooney Sr the owner of the steelers who insisted he be given a chance as there were no other purple heart veterans playing anywhere. He fought as hard as possible and made the special teams, with Chuck Noll constantly watching and approving.

    years later, Art’s son, the coward, Dan Rooney, violates NFL and 501 c 3 rules and backs the other coward Barack Obama, because he wanted to feel “good” with his black players. Realllllyyyy??? Yes.
    deal with it.

  7. Lewis Barnes    

    Very impressionable indeed, & truly inspirational. It’d be very nostalgic if Rocky & the amputee could reunite.

    SEMPER FI!

  8. Mike Moore    

    Thanks for what you have done for other Mr. Blier.

  9. rosemary goggin    

    Wow Marty Glick. A little bit of hate showing thru. I am thinking you are a Vet from Vietnam,- that got the shaft from the
    VA. But, I could be 100% wrong. You may not have the resume to call people cowards..

  10. Louis Miller    

    Disrespect for our president won’t get u anywhere. Leave the hatred and racism behind.

    A Vietnam vet with the 29th evac hosp.
    STOP THE HATRED
    COMPOSE THE COUNTRY.

  11. Grafton Matthews    

    The article about Rocky Bleier, war hero and 4-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is very inspirational. Sometimes, all of us need to count our blessings and realized that someone may be far worst off than you.
    What happen to the triple amputee? The VA should do an article about this veteran.

  12. Bob Chalmers    

    In 1980 a film was made of his story. It was called Fighting Back and is quite inspirational.

Comments are closed.