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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Many celebrated the Memorial Day holiday with cookouts and parades. But, the holiday takes on a different meaning for those who served, including Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva.
In a video for ESPN, Villanueva delivers an emotional essay about his time in the service and what the holiday means to him.
“Serving my country was the greatest honor of my life. Not everyone gets to come home to their family and loved ones like I did.”
Villanueva goes on to explain the history of the holiday before sharing the story about a friend who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I could tell you a lot of things about my time in the service, what I saw, what I learned. But, I think on Memorial Day, the most important thing I can tell you is the story of a soldier I’ll never forget. A young man, a kid really, named Jesse Dietrich. Jesse was from a small town just outside of Fort Worth, Texas. He enlisted in the Army when he was 18 to support his infant son.”
He says his unit was ambushed by the Taliban on Aug. 25, 2011, and Dietrich lost his life.
“He was 20 years old and he left behind a 2-year-old son named Kevin. So, if you do one thing this Memorial Day, think about those who sacrificed. Think of the 1.1 million and their families and think about my friend, Jesse, who is buried in the plains of Texas under an oak tree older than the holiday itself. And think about the grave that’s being decorated by the son who never got to know his dad.”