CHULA VISTA, Calif. — David Martins served in the military in Iraq and came home unhurt, but then he suffered an injury during an altercation that put him in a wheelchair. Those series of events forced him to find a strength he didn’t know he had.

In 2007, Martins was shot in an altercation in Georgia that resulted in a bullet striking his L3 vertebra. Doctors told Martins he was paralyzed.

“It broke me down honestly, you never expect something like that…it was definitely like a wake-up call, I thought I was untouchable,” he said.

Martins’ first year in a wheelchair led him down a dark path. He knew he needed a positive outlet, so he chose to weightlift.

“I’ve always been a gym rat but not to the extent that I am now,” Martins said.

In 2019, he took his love for weightlifting to the next level. Martins traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, winning the bench press event at the Veteran Wheelchair Games.

He’s encouraging people with disabilities to not become an island and lean on loved ones for help.

“Your life can be just as good as it was before, maybe even better,” Martins said.