For as long as Marine Sgt. Luis Hernandez can remember, he's wanted to be a Marine.
When he turned 17, he told his parents the only thing he wanted for his birthday was for them to allow him to join, just as his father and brother had done.
"Being among that group of people and knowing that you're doing something good was just amazing," said Hernandez, of Wolcott, Conn.
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Six years later, during a routine patrol in Afghanistan in April 2010, he was hit by an IED. Shrapnel tore through his flak vest and his body.
"The only thing I could really do was move my left arm and they told me I was hit in more than a dozen spots in every part of my body," said Hernandez. "I remember when I was injured in the hospital and sometimes getting upset because I'd have to get help doing things, cutting my food and stuff like that."
After five surgeries, doctors told him he would not be able to move like he had before.
"I remember that upset me a lot because I was always, my entire life, someone who was very physically active," said Hernandez.
"He's brave, he's amazing, and don't ever say no to him because he will prove you wrong," said Hernandez's mother, Mary.
As partial feeling returned to his limbs, Hernandez worked tirelessly. He got out of the wheelchair, got rid of the cane and began picking up weights once again, but this time as a bodybuilder.
"I thought to myself, 'This could be my next challenge, my next thing. I can push myself to do,'" said Hernandez.
This past Saturday, three years after the moment that left behind shrapnel and scars, the 25-year-old stood on stage and took home two first place wins as a bodybuilder.
"Your body is an incredible thing. A lot of people don't realize how far we can push it," said Hernandez.
"You raise your children and you teach them so much. I never thought one day he would teach me," said Hernandez's mom.
For the warriors currently battling through injuries, Hernandez hopes they know there's nothing they can't do.
Hernandez says he's going to take some time and enjoy the holidays and then start training for the WBFF Worlds in Las Vegas, which takes place in August.