Pelzer was the third of five children of alcoholic parents. His father deserted the family, and David was horrifically physically abused from the age of four by his alcoholic birth mother (herself abused by her parents) and then he spent nine years, from age 12, in foster care in a number of placements. When he left care he joined the Air Force and served in the Gulf war.
He was the only American to receive the Outstanding Young Person of the Year award given at the World Congress in 1995 in Japan and in 1993, he was chosen as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.
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