Veterans Day at Frito-Lay

This year for Veterans Day, I was invited to the headquarters of Frito-Lay, located in Plano, TX.  The company did an outstanding job honoring our nation’s veterans and providing their staff the opportunity to learn how they can support veterans locally and nationwide.  Hope For The Warriors® joined other nonprofit organizations for this event.

The guest speaker was Rocky Bleier–best known as a former National Football League halfback with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He played for the Steelers in 1968, and then from 1971 to 1980.  In that time, he earned four Superbowl Rings.

Rocky Bleier with Anne Woods, wearing his Superbowl Rings

Although his football career made him a legend, Rocky is more than just another football player from the past.  His time between 1968 and 1971 was spent in Vietnam.  He was drafted into the Army and in August 1969, while on patrol in Heip Duc, Bleier was hit in the left thigh by a rifle bullet.  Down in a rice paddy, an enemy grenade landed near him sending shrapnel into his lower right leg.  Rocky was pulled out of Vietnam and transported to a hospital in Tokyo for his recovery.

As he laid in his hospital bed in Tokyo, his doctors told him that he would never play football again.  Defeated and depressed, he wondered what he would do next.

And then came a turning point in his life.  Art Rooney, owner of the Steelers sent a postcard and all it said was “Rock – the team’s not doing well.  We need you.

Rocky shared how this single postcard changed his entire outlook, his recovery and his life.  Less than 10 words on a small rectangle.  But those 10 words made him feel needed, valuable, and strong again.

Today, we rarely send postcards.  This form of communication has been replaced by e-mails, phone calls, and text messages.  Rocky’s story is a great reminder of how important our words are to our wounded service members.  Do we look at their wounds and believe that their life will never be great, that they will never reach new goals?  Or do we look to our service members, knowing that the strength that led them into military service, can lead them down great new paths?  Do we pity them, or are we proud of them?  And as an employer, do we look past them or do we recognize their skills and hire them?

Veterans Day is about more than just thanking our veterans for their past service.  It is also about believing in their future worth.