Sal Gonzalez lost his leg in Iraq and, during the days of recuperation and therapy back home in the United States, he turned to music to buoy his spirits. On Tuesday night on "America's Got Talent," he shared his story of loss and newfound hope in the face of adversity. And then his rendition of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" brought down the house...
As People.com noted July 2, Sal Gonzalez brought inspiration with him onto the "America's Got Talent" stage. The judges were not only lauded his singing voice and his performance but also commended him for his work with the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that helps wounded military veterans and their families adjust, rehabilitate, recuperate, and survive.
Many of the backstories told on reality shows like "America's Got Talent" are meant to pull at one's heartstrings, to be inspirational. Some appeal to your sense of humanity and your patriotism. On Tuesday night's audition episode, Sal Gonzalez, a former Marine deployed to Iraq, told his story -- and his story held every element one could hope for if one were looking for a tale of persistence, inspiration, and positivity. It also inspired, pulled at your heartstrings, your sense of humanity, your patriotism, among other inclinations.
"Having music as a tool for my recovery, I was able to put down and let go of a lot of pain," he said in the run-up video. "It kept me going. It's life. It's who I am … I want to show other warriors that it's possible to follow your dreams and be normal."
Gonzalez mentioned he was working with the Wounded Warrior Project and when asked if he had volunteered, he said he served and was wounded himself, but he hid it well. He pulled up the leg of his pants, revealing a metal prosthesis where a leg normally fit into a shoe. A collective gasp erupted from the crowd.
But he wasn't there for sympathy. And when he performed his altered version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," he wasn't getting any, either. In fact, he had the entire audience on their feet, clapping and singing along with him.
Judge Howie Mandel told him, "Sal, you are really, really good."
Judge Mel B said, "You can sing. You can really sing... I want some more of that."
Judge Howard Stern noted that when he came out and told his story, he became emotional. He was afraid Gonzalez wouldn't be any good and that it would be difficult to judge him impartially. "Thank God you were good," he said with relief, prompting laughter from all.
The judges loved him. Four "yeses" later and Sal Gonzalez was headed for the next round.
"America's Got Talent" airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (EST) on NBC Television.