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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Expeditionary Training Base"

Continental hand walker inspires Marines

By Cpl. Matthew Shaw | | September 8, 2000

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A man who walked from San Diego to Washington, D.C. on his hands came to Camp Pendleton to encourage and inspire Marines and sailors of 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, during a prayer breakfast at the Del Mar mess hall, Sept. 8.

When Bob Wieland began telling the story of how he lost his legs in Vietnam, even people who were not part of the meeting were drawn to him.

Shortly before serving as an Army medical specialist with the 25th Infantry in Vietnam, Wieland put his faith in Jesus Christ.

"I had no idea how that would change the rest of my life," he said.

His voice was full of excitement and energy as he continued to tell the audience how his unit was ambushed during an operation in Ho Bo Woods.   As he rushed to aid injured soldiers, he stepped on unexploded ordinance, ripping his legs away from his body.

Once at the hospital, medics began working on him, despite being pronounced dead on arrival.  He says God's mercy was his salvation on the battlefield, and it brought him back to health in the face of death. 

As Wieland recalled these painful moments, the energy in his voice never ebbed. 

"I appreciate hearing how his faith in Jesus Christ carried him through some very difficult times in his life," said Chaplain Roger Vanderwerken, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion chaplain.  "He's an inspirational man."

Since his recovery, Wieland has broken the bench press world record four times.  His best lift was 507 pounds.  He also completed a 6,200-mile bike circuit across America.  He completed the Ironman Triathlon course without a wheelchair and competed in the New York, Los Angeles and Marine Corps Marathons.  He also served as the strength and motivational coach for the Green Bay Packers, among many other accomplishments.  In late 1982, he began the "ultimate challenge of his life"-walking on his hands 2,784.1 miles to help feed the physically and spiritually hungry.

When he finished telling the audience his story, he challenged them to take a "step of faith" by letting Jesus' example serve as a foundation for their lives.

Private First Class Jacob Lehnen, 3rd AAV tracker said "he presented his faith in a positive way.  He shows that anything is possible if you put your mind and heart to it."

Wieland chose to quote the Bible verse Luke 1:37, "For nothing is impossible with God."

After he was finished speaking, Marines and sailors greeted him, thanking him for sharing his inspiration.

Wieland wrote a book with the help of Sara Nichols, "One step at a time," about his experiences.  He concluded the book with this excerpt:

"For all this and more, I praise the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is my power source.  And whether the finish line is at the end of a cinder track or at the gates of heaven, the race is only run one step at a time.  And He has been with me - every step of the way."

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