Meet wounded veteran and powerlifting champ Omar ‘Crispy’ Avila

Sgt. Omar “Crispy” Avila is living his best life after surviving a massive IED blast, recovering from severe burns and an amputation, and beginning a journey into powerlifting. 

Check out Avila’s incredible journey, passion for life, and dedication to his country and fellow veterans on the new episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast

Avila, who joined the Army in 2004 as an infantryman, was deployed to Iraq in 2007.  On May 14 of that year, his vehicle was struck with a 200-pound IED, resulting in burns to 75% of his body, and leading to two broken legs and an amputation below the knee of his right one. Even so, he navigated his convoy back to safety, before spending three months in an induced coma. 

“When I woke up, I looked around and asked my dad, ‘Where are my boots? I got a mission to finish.’” 

But Avila would not be strapping on the boots again. Instead, his new mission would be rehabbing and then finding a new purpose while also learning about skin grafts, using a prosthetic and more.

“Most of all I learned to be thankful, especially when visitation hours were over and everybody was gone,” he says. “It’s just you, the machines in there and your thoughts. I used to sit there and be thankful, and thank God quite a bit. But I also learned to forgive myself since I had survivor’s guilt. I had two of my friends die, one in the vehicle and one in the hospital.”

Upon retiring from the Army in 2010, Avila got caught up in nightlife and partying.

“What am I doing? Why am I throwing my life away?” he wondered. “Any of those guys who died that day would trade spots with me in a heartbeat and would want to be with their families and want to enjoy the day. What am I doing? This is such an injustice, not just to me, but to them.” 

A rejuvenated Avila decided to check out a strongman competition at his friend’s gym, which led him on a new path. Powering through his injuries, he became the current world record holder for the World Association of Bench and Deadlift in the Paralympics category.  

“The iron bug bit me, so I started devoting all my time to powerlifting,” he says. 

Avila now serves as a liaison for Sons of The Flag, helping other wounded veterans through their recovery process. Learn more about Avila, his recovery, weightlifting approach, volunteer work and more in the new episode. 

Also, co-hosts Stacy Pearsall, Joe Worley and Adam Marr:

• Discuss the connection between 1970s “Star Wars” and modern advancements in prosthesis.

• Talk about issues veterans are finding with their toxic exposure screenings.

• Hand out a Bravo Zulu to a Legion post in Arizona that created a food pantry that feeds hundreds of families a week.

• Speculate about the lack of flying aces and whether shootdowns of drones should count. 

Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 250 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.