June 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM ET
Double takes are nothing unusual around Alex Minsky, but not because of this war veteran’s prosthetic leg.
His tattooed, finely chiseled body often gets a second look – along with a blush or two – for how good he looks in his skivvies.
The former Marine-turned-model works out twice a day – a grueling maintenance schedule – but nothing compared to what Minsky, 24, experienced before reaching this point in his life.
Four years ago, he lost part of his right leg, and nearly his life, in a roadside explosive in Afghanistan.
“It did look very grim. I had a Stage 3 brain injury,” he told TODAY’s Tamron Hall. “I was in a coma for 47 days.”
Minsky, a Purple Heart recipient, learned to walk with the help of a prosthetic limb. But two months after leaving the Marines, his younger brother passed away. Minsky coped with the death, along with his lingering physical injuries, by drinking.
“I was using alcohol to numb whatever was going on in my head,” he said.
His mother, Jackie Minsky, said her son was “hellbent on destroying himself” during this period.
“When you have demons in your head and you are depressed, there isn't anybody that can really take care of that besides yourself and it's not easy,” she told TODAY.
After being arrested on numerous DUI charges, Minsky decided to quit drinking and focus on physical fitness. The decision paid off immediately.
“Second day I was sober, I was working out just doing my thing, and this guy came up to me. He said, ‘I really like the way you look and I want to know if you've ever modeled before,’” he recalled.
That guy was photographer Tom Cullis.
“Alex has inspired me to look at beauty differently,” he said.
Nine months after his first photo shoot, Minsky is heating up the Internet with photos of his ripped body. But Minsky said he’s getting more from this experience than fame.
It’s about “my sanity, my happiness, you know?” he said. “I'm working on me. For the first time I'm not running away anymore."