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The gym helping veterans prove a disability doesn't mean a limitation on life

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Posted at 10:37 AM, Aug 06, 2021

August 31 will mark the official end of the war in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years.

In both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of US military members who have been wounded stands at more than 50,000, according to the Department of Defense.

Many will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the impact of injuries from the battlefield. But some are finding ways to prove disability doesn’t mean limitation.

“I wanted to make my impact and serve my country the way that I could," said Army Veteran Randy Nantz.

“A big thing in the Marine Corps: adapt and overcome," explained Brian Aft.

"One day, I was out riding my bike and a distracted driver, she was texting and driving, and she ran a red light while she was doing so and boom, she hit me in one of the intersections," recalled Army veteran Keith Murphy.

For all the difficulty that adversity can carry comes the opportunity to move past it, as these veterans have learned.

Inside the Adaptive Training Foundation, located just outside of Dallas, Texas, you’ll find many who don’t see unthinkable hardship as an insurmountable challenge.

“It doesn’t matter what your injury is; it’s how you bounce back from that,” Nantz said.

Nantz enlisted in the Army shortly after 9/11, when he was in his 30’s. He went on to become a member of America's elite special forces.

In 2006, while serving in Iraq, an attack changed this Green Beret's life forever.

“You look at yourself differently because you do have some disabilities and as much as I never want to admit that or say that I’m disabled, it’s a fact. I’m missing part of my leg," Nantz explained.

His injuries, including severe burns on his legs, ended his military career.

“I thought, ‘Man, the best years of my life may be behind me,’" he said.

But then he stepped into ATF.

“That first class for me was pretty much life-changing," he recalled.

“Doing hard things together galvanizes us, allows us to see the reason, behind the reason that we feel stuck or why we feel limited in our lives," said David Vobora.

Vobora founded this nonprofit after spending five years in the NFL.

“Putting on a football helmet and going down on the gridiron was, pales in comparison to what they experienced, but the thinking around it was very synonymous," he said.

People with disabilities from across the country apply to take part in customized nine-week programs here and at no cost.

“Definitely helped me keep progressing in the good things, staying away from the bad things," said Brian Aft.

A veteran of the Marines, Aft lost both legs while serving overseas.

“It was a couple of years in recovery at the hospitals, developed a really bad heroin problem," he said.

At ATF, he found the help he needed.

“You’re going to end up forcing yourself to a better mental place, you’re still making physical improvements on yourself, and you’re going to feel good about that," he said.

“When they tell you can’t do this or can’t do that, this is a place of can," said Keith Murphy.

After being hit on his motorcycle, the veteran of the Korean War had more injuries than most people have in a lifetime.

"Dislocated shoulder, collapsed lung, seven broken ribs, lacerated kidney, broken hip, broken pelvis. My leg was amputated. I broke my back, broke my neck," he said of the injuries he sustained.

But no injury could take away his ability to fight back.

“I was determined to make my life back to where it was before this happened, despite missing a leg," Murphy said.

More than 60 million Americans live with a disability. While many may never come to his gym, Vobora hopes they hear the message that comes from it.

“That moment is actually the catapult to be able to position you to be able to see beyond what you thought was possible for your life, but it just takes you being this sponge to say, ‘God, universe, I’m willing to have your way with me and I’m going to trust that it’s going to be in my benefit,’" Vobora expressed.