Vietnam War vet who lost both legs speaks at Winter Garden event

Motivational speaker Bob Wieland, who lost both legs in 1969 while serving in the Vietnam War, spoke in Winter Garden this weekend.

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  • | 5:30 p.m. August 29, 2016
Bob Wieland participated in the 2011 Dream Ride with his hand cycle.
Bob Wieland participated in the 2011 Dream Ride with his hand cycle.
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In 1969, he lost both legs to an anti-tank mine in the Vietnam War. He has since spoken at events worldwide, including here in Winter Garden.

Bob Wieland, a world-renowned motivational speaker, has been asked by various sports teams, conference and meeting planners and churches for more than 45 years to share his message of hope and perseverance. 

On Saturday, Aug. 27, he spoke at the Roper YMCA during an event honoring Windermere Police Officer Robert German and Orange County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scott Pine, who both died in the line of duty.

Known as “Mr. Inspiration,” Wieland draws from his personal experiences to inspire others to think and act like a champion. 



Wieland, a current California resident, was a high-school sports star at Greenfield Wisconsin High School and was set to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies after his college career. But the U.S. Army had other plans, and Wieland was sent to fight in the Vietnam War, where he lost both of his legs trying to save one of his friends.

Near death and zipped up in a body bag, Wieland had originally been pronounced dead by doctors. This time, it was God who had other plans to use Wieland.

“Yeah, I lost my legs, but I didn’t lose my heart,” Wieland said. “A lot of people have legs, but an awful lot of people have given up, and that’s where I come in and encourage them to keep going for it.”

From there, Wieland was adjusting to his new life. His career as a motivational speaker indirectly began with the bench press. A former four-time world record-holder in the bench press, he had a best lift of 507 pounds.

“When I broke the world record in the 1977 bench press and got disqualified for not wearing shoes, the L.A. Times did a huge story and many people read the story,” he said. “The next day I went to my mailbox, and there must have been 100 messages that were asking me to come speak. It lead into a career of speaking anywhere, up to 50,000 people at a time.”

He has since spoken to audiences worldwide as a sports speaker, team builder, inspirational Christian speaker and more at events ranging from camps and churches to conferences and fundraising events. 

And his story gets even better. Between 1982 and 1986, Wieland walked across America on his arms over three years, eight months and six days.

After he was banned from bench-press competition, Wieland had prayed about what to do next. In 1981 and 1982, when Los Angeles was gearing up to host the 1984 Olympic Games, one of his friends invited him to come to a facility in Pasadena that had one of the first artificial tracks in the country. 

“I jumped out of the wheelchair and decided to take a lap around the track on my arms, and long story short, one lap became two and that became four, and I started training for 18 months,” he said.

In 1982, to raise money for Vietnam War veterans, he began his walk across the country on his hands, beginning in L.A. and ending in Washington, D.C., with a visit to President Ronald Reagan. His top speed was 11 miles covered per day.



Despite the challenges he has faced, he is making the most out of the hand he’s been dealt. His motto serves as the backbone of his motivational speeches: “It’s too soon to quit.”

In fact, his determination and zest for life earned him the honor of being one of People Magazine’s “Six Most Amazing Americans” in 1994. He also was named the Most Courageous Man in America and presented with the National Award for Courage in 1995 by the National Football League Player Association in conjunction with the Jim Thorpe Foundation, among other accolades.

“Thousands of people just said, ‘That’s the most overwhelming speech we’ve ever heard in our entire life,’” he said of people’s reactions to his story. “It’s real — I don’t have to make up anything. In today’s society, most everything is make-believe, but my story is all true, and people are overwhelmed. Usually when people listen, they start crying, so you know you’re making an impact. And I’m not (just) talking about the women crying, I’m talking about the men. You can hear a pin drop.” 

On Saturday, he spoke about striving for success and unleashing the champion within. He noted that everyone has great potential, but if they don’t do anything with that potential nothing happens.

“(I’m most looking forward to) honoring these fallen heroes of the police department, recognizing their families and the fact that the community is recognizing the sacrifice they’ve made,” he said. “That’s why I usually share the Gospel of John 15:13 — ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’

“This is what God called me to do, and I’ve been doing it for a long, long time,” he said. “Doors open up all over the world for me. God’s put it all together, I’m just the vessel. Everybody needs inspiration.”

For more information about Bob Wieland, visit


Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].


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