Injured by IED in Iraq – Vet Becomes Champion Powerlifter with Only 1 Leg

If one’s soul can be mended by challenging the body, a gentleman in St. Johns, Michigan, must have a very calm spirit indeed.

Veteran and bodybuilder Bobby Body (yep, that’s his real name) isn’t just a record-setting bench presser who served in Iraq. Like many who fought, Body came home wounded physically, emotionally and spiritually. He started seeing a therapist, who helped him deal with the trauma and adapt to civilian life. She thought he needed exercise to help allay some of the strain from too many distressing memories, and come to grips with his new world.

Destroyed Humvee was struck by an IED in Iraq.
Destroyed Humvee was struck by an IED in Iraq.

But a new life wasn’t quite what Body wanted. He had intended to make the Army his life–but that goal was destroyed in February 2006, when four enemy bombs went off near Body’s jeep while he was still inside it, badly injuring his left arm and leg.

Surgery ultimately repaired his arm, and he tried to rehabilitate his leg with the help of physiotherapy. But nothing could be done: the tendons and cartilage were beyond recovery, and after several years in rehab, doctors said his leg had to be amputated. In 2013 Body’s left leg was removed above the knee.

Marines Unloading Wounded in Iraq from Blackhawk Helicopter.
Marines Unloading Wounded in Iraq from Blackhawk Helicopter.

Once he recuperated, Body looked for a gym where he could work out, to shed stress more than anything else. Although he went to the gym that first time almost on a whim, he found that he liked it. And just as importantly, he was good at it.

Today, Body can bench press more than 400 pounds, and he regularly vies for titles–usually against able-bodied men–and has won several. But he readily admits that losing his posting in the Army was a crushing defeat he struggled to reconcile.

Wounded U.S. personnel flown from Iraq to Ramstein, Germany, for medical treatment (February 2007)
Wounded U.S. personnel flown from Iraq to Ramstein, Germany, for medical treatment (February 2007)

“I was devastated,” he said bluntly in an interview with the Lansing State Journal not long ago. “The military was going to be my career.” Body served as a Marine for three years before signing up for the Army, and for him, the Army was more than a job path–it gave him the bonds and camaraderie, the familial solidarity, that his own childhood had sorely lacked.

His mother left when he was five and his father went to prison when Body was ten. He and his sister then moved to the VFN National Home for Children.

Body continued to spend time at the gym and was encouraged by others to start powerlifting.
Body continued to spend time at the gym and was encouraged by others to start powerlifting.

But if Body couldn’t fulfill his dream of making a family out of Army comrades, he certainly seems to have made one out of workout buddies, and now the gym is like a second home. In fact, that is the reason Body first tried power lifting.

Another man saw him press more than 300 pounds one day and encouraged him to give power lifting a shot. Body didn’t have much faith in himself at first: “At first I thought, ‘I’m an amputee, there’s no way I could compete against anybody’.”

Bobby Body, Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year. Photo: DAV
Bobby Body, Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year. Photo: DAV

He takes solace from his workouts, and they take a whole lot of strength. Body has biceps the size of huge melons, with a broad chest to support his 5’8, 198-pound frame. Last May, he pressed 460 pounds “raw,” which means he did it with no padding, supports, etc. But having just one leg to work with–his prosthetic can’t take that pressure–means Body must work harder than other gym enthusiasts to accomplish his goals.

Even though he fell into powerlifting, Body’s allies at the gym speak of him with great admiration and respect for all he has accomplished. Power lifter Bobby Faber said that Body has a remarkable talent. “Probably 60% of your strength on bench press comes from your legs,” Faber explained.

 

 

Read another story from us: Ambushed Twice on the Streets of Iraq, Johnson Beharry Become the Only VC Recipient of the Iraq War

“It’s impressive. That means that he doesn’t half-ass train. He’s made it very, very far in the sport.” For a man who first entered a gym almost casually, it’s a very impressive feat indeed.