The 33-year-old Army vet reflects on the moment that eventually led him to Dancing with the Stars

By Lynette Rice
Updated April 01, 2015 11:10 AM
Credit: ABC

Noah Galloway was a voracious fitness buff with an enviable six-pack before he dropped out of college to join the military after 9/11.

But a 2005 incident in Iraq would alter his life forever. Three months into his second tour of duty, Galloway, now 33, lost his left leg above his knee and his left arm above his elbow during an improvised-explosive-device attack. He remained unconscious in a German hospital for five days.

After returning home to Alabama, the vet says he fell into a deep depression.

“I was drinking, eating bad, spending days at the house without leaving,” Galloway told PEOPLE. “And then one day I realized I wasn’t being a good father, a good person. I let myself get out of shape, and something needed to change.”

Galloway already knew what could make a difference – a new commitment to get into the best shape of his life. He was outfitted with a prosthetic leg that could help him run road and trail races.

“I knew that fitness is better than any medication out there,” Galloway said. “A buddy of mine who was in the Humvee when I got hit saw me on Facebook working out, and invited me to do a race. And after that, I wanted to do another race. It kept growing to bigger races. It led me to be on [MTV’s] True Life about the Tough Mudder races, then I made the cover of Men’s Health, then I was on Ellen and then here I am on Dancing with the Stars.”

“It’s been this amazing journey that I can trace back to me getting up one night and deciding that I needed to quit focusing on what I lost and concentrate on what I have left – that I have two of my limbs and, more importantly, I have three children that I can be a better father for.”

For more on Galloway, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday