Sal Gonzalez, 29, who lives in Nashville but grew up in Los Angeles, earned "yes" votes and praise for not only his singing but his work with the Wounded Warrior Project, in which he helps other injured veterans re-adjust to life back home.
"You are very, very inspirational … You can sing!" judge Mel B said after Gonzalez delivered a soulful rendition of the Bill Withers Grammy Award-winning classic "Ain't No Sunshine."
Fellow judge Howard Stern agreed, saying, "A young guy like yourself, to sacrifice his leg, give to his country. How can you not be moved by that?"
Gonzalez shared that he lost his leg after he was riding in a Humvee in the town of Ramadi, Iraq, when it was hit by an explosive. The machine gun operator, who had only served in Iraq for two months, woke up to smoke all around, his ears ringing.
"I honestly don't remember a lot of pain although my leg was clearly broken in half," he said of the day his life changed.
He returned to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to recover, and later took a job to help other vets like himself.
But music, Gonzalez told the judges – "I've been singing since I could speak" – was what saved his life.
"Having music as a tool for my recovery, I was able to put down and let go of a lot of pain," he said. "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."