MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Twenty-eight-year-old Derek Weida lost his right leg after being shot while on patrol in Iraq.

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“I was thinking, ‘There’s a good chance I could die out here.’ And I obviously came really close,” Weida said.

He struggled with what to do with his life when he came home, but now he has a plan to help himself, and veterans just like him.

Weida loved everything about the military, especially the brothers and sisters he made as part of the 82nd Airborne Division.

One night in 2007, intelligence led his team to a home in Baghdad, Iraq.

“We heard somebody inside rack their AK, you know, charge their weapon. So, we all standing there knew that we were going to be going in shooting,” he said.

As the assault leader, Weida was the first one in.

“As soon as the door swung open, it was just a spray of fire,” he said.

Weida was shot in the right knee. And while it was serious enough to keep him from active duty, doctors didn’t think it required amputation. But Weida became depressed, and spent four years in extreme pain.

Then one day a friend invited him to race in the Tough Mudder.

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“He just said ‘Do this. Do this. Get out there,’” Weida said.

So he did. His leg held him back at times, but his friends helped carry him through. Weida was rejuvenated.

Afterwards, doctors at the VA agreed to amputate so he could run with a prosthetic. Working out was once again a part of his life.

“There’s a lot of in-shape people at the gyms, but I think military people do it a little bit tougher and harder,” he said.

This is why Weida now wants to open a gym run by combat veterans. In just a few days, he’s raised nearly $3,000.

Weida says his members will get healthier, and his fellow veterans will have a chance to heal.

“They’re gonna feel like they’re part of a new family there, with me and the other clients and the other veterans there,” he said. “So they won’t be sitting home, alone.”

Weida has spent the past year or so developing a business plan. His gym will most likely be somewhere in St. Paul, and while it will have traditional gym equipment, it’ll be unique.

Members will have a chance to sign up for military-type workouts, like working with medicine balls, tow ropes and flipping tractor tires. It will promote both mental and physical toughness.

Weida already applied for an LLC, and he hopes to open All-American Fitness and Strength this spring.

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He’s hoping to raise $25,000. Click here to donate.

John Lauritsen