Injured Marine gets second chance exercising his passion

(CBS News) WOODBRIDGE, N.J. - When America's war veterans come home, many try to pick up their lives where they left off. That can be a big challenge. One Marine corporal had the will to do the heavy lifting -- he just needed someone to show him the way.

Josh Himan is pumping iron. He's done it since he was a teenager, and by the time he became a Marine, it showed.

Then his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

"I was ejected from the vehicle and sustained multiple spinal cord injuries," recalled Himan.

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Josh Himan had always had a passion for pumping iron since he was a teenager.
CBS News

He went from the peak of your physical powers to being paralyzed. Himan was 25 at the time.

"There's a lot of times where you know, you think, 'Why didn't I just die?' But I always had love and support, and that's what brought me through."

Himan came home to a hero's welcome and a house renovated for his special needs -- except for one thing.

"For me the gym was my passion, it was my escape," said Himan. "And I really missed that relationship I had with lifting weights."

Until Tyler Hobson, a household name in strength training, brought in the kind of a specially designed weight machine he usually builds for NFL players.

"You see these guys," Hobson said. "You know that genetically they're very gifted and could probably accomplish with stones what they're doing with my machines. They don't really need me."

But Josh Himan needed him.

"This is something that's a game changer for him," said Hobson. "If I can do something to help him get in and out of a car, or help him get in and out of the bed, I've changed his life."

To get it right, Hobson put himself in a wheelchair to see what it's like to lift weights when you're paralyzed from the chest down.

"I don't have control of my abdominals," said Himan, "so I usually have a hard time with my balance. This machine gives me almost perfect balance and I'm able to do a lot of functional strength exercises."

Himan got a first look at what Hobson and a team of engineers had built. Hobson realized it was about more than upper body strength.

"All of a sudden," said Hobson, "it hit you right then and there when you saw the look on his face. 'I can be whole again.' It was unbelievable."

As for himself, Himan said: "It's going to be a new Josh Himan for sure."

For now he's got a trainer to take him through the different exercises. But the machine has electric motors that allow him to shift from one movement to another on his own. He's a born-again gym rat who also happens to be going for a master's degree in finance.

Right now, hes going for the burn.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.