The next time you complain about leg day, just be happy you have legs.
Of course, that doesn’t stop everyone- just ask legendary fitness icon Bob Wieland, who broke records and expectations without 1/2 of the body so many of us take for granted.
An all-star athlete from Wisconsin, then-23-year-old Bob Wieland had a lucrative future with the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of him when he found himself reporting to the draft board- in the middle of the Vietnam War.
Given the choice between being a cook and being a medic, Wieland decided that he would be better served “in the thick of it” and took on the role as “Doc,” serving with the 25th Infantry Division.
In June of 1969, Doc Wieland was moving with his squad to an ambush point when one of his squad members stepped on an IED. Rushing in to give first aid, Wieland stepped on an IED of his own, which sent his legs flying in the other direction.
Not long after, a legless Wieland would send the following letter to his folks:
June 14, 1969
Dear Mom and Dad.
I’m in the hospital. Everything is going to be O.K. The people here are taking good care of me.
P.S. I think I lost my legs
Not one to ration humor, Wieland kept a cheery demeanor and was determined to exceed expectations with his physical rehabilitation.
“My legs went in one direction,” he said. “My life, another.”
After being discharged from the Army, Wieland -a Purple Heart recipient- began taking weight lifting seriously. Determined to become as fit as he could be, he left Wisconsin for California, where he trained at “Muscle Beach.”
“It was a blast,” he said of his time there.
Eight years after being blown up, Wieland broke the bantamweight division world record at the US Powerlifting Championship, bench pressing 303 pounds.
In 2014, someone ran into him at a public gym and put his biceps to the test. Wieland showed he still had it by curling 100 lbs with one arm with ease.
Unfortunately, a little-known rule in the contest led officials to disqualify the Vietnam Veteran, as all contestants were required to wear shoes at the time of the lift. Even after breaking the record three more times and eventually being told he couldn’t compete in the event anymore, Wieland didn’t seem too bent out of shape over it.
“I was never bitter about it,” he said. “I told the official that “the joy had been in the journey.’”
Earning a college degree, Wieland became the strength and conditioning coach for the Green Bay Packers, and served as both coach and confidant during the 1991 season.
Eventually, Wieland decided it was time to walk across America. Haunted by the images of starving Vietnamese children he had seen during the war, it was those same images that drove him.
At first, he took on the journey alone. He would drive his van three miles, stop, roll his wheelchair back three miles, and “walk” to his van. Once he arrived, he would mount up, drive back to the wheelchair, pick it up…And do it all over.
Eventually Wieland got a partner and sponsorship, and after three years, eight months, and six days, he finally accomplished his mission, raising money for his fellow Vietnam Veterans in the process.
It just goes to show, it’s more than a pair of legs that make the grunt- it’s the heart that drives them.
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