Why would God send a man with no legs to encourage people to take a step of faith?
It’s a pretty awesome question. At least that’s the question that Vietnam War veteran Bob Wieland asked the audience packed inside the Castellani Art Museum this past Wednesday (Veterans Day).
Before joining the Army, Wieland was a three-sport athlete on the verge of signing a Major League Baseball contract. After having his legs blown off during duty in 1969, Wieland has not let his disability affect him in a negative way.
Since returning from Vietnam, Wieland has accomplished much more than the average person. He has won the Outstanding Disabled American Veteran Award in Wisconsin and California. He was voted “One of the Six Most Amazing Americans in the Past 20 Years” by People Magazine in 1994 and, two years later, was named “The Most Courageous Man in America” by the NFL Players Association and the Jim Thorpe Foundation.
Wieland has been a strength and conditioning coach for the Green Bay Packers and said he still keeps in touch with some of the players.
It doesn’t end there.
On top of several prestigious awards, Wieland has completed the New York and Los Angeles marathons and walked across America on his hands. He has also completed the Iron Man Challenge in Kona, Hawaii, and is the former four-time world record holder in the bench press, with a best lift of 507 pounds.
On Veterans Day, at Niagara University, Wieland started his morning by having breakfast with members of the university’s Student Veterans Organization. Afterward, Wieland attended a class, which gave him the chance to meet and interact with more students. He then enjoyed lunch with several other veterans, followed by a motivational speech to Niagara’s Division I hockey team, before capping his day addressing the crowd inside of the Castellani.
Robert Healy is the veterans services coordinator at Niagara and had a prominent role in getting Wieland to come to campus for this event.
“As a fellow veteran, I think that I can relate a lot to [Wieland],” Healy said. “That first step is always the most difficult one, but once you’ve taken it, that commitment to succeed and finish it through is just phenomenal and I think that’s hopefully what was passed on.”
Healy also went onto say that Wieland’s accomplishments and zeal for life were two things that impressed him the most.
As Wieland ended his day at Niagara University, there was a meet-and-greet that allowed students to take a picture with Wieland and tell him what his words meant to them. It was during these pictures that Wieland posed with his hand made into a fist and his thumb pointed high in the air as if his hand personified his attitude toward life.
Even though Wieland lost his legs almost 40 years ago, he has no trouble standing the tallest amongst those around him.
Article by James Burns, a sophomore Academic Exploration Program student. Photos by Jacquie DellaNeve, a junior communication studies major.