Melissa Stockwell, was the first American female soldier to lose a limb in Iraq, but she didn’t let it defeat her; she became Champion Paratriathlete
At 24, Stockwell lost her leg during a bombing in Baghdad. Shocked and unaware of what happened, Stockwell woke up in an emergency room and was missing her left leg
“I was 24, and suddenly, without warning, I had only one leg. I couldn’t stop worrying about what my life was going to become. But as I saw more and more veterans admitted with injuries worse than mine, I realized I was lucky. I had three working limbs and my vision. I was alive,” said Stockwell.
After months of surgeries Stockwell learned to walk with a prosthetic leg, however she felt most comfortable when in a pool. Being in the water made Stockwell feel “whole again”
“As I grew stronger, I swam lap after lap at the outpatient pool, completely forgetting that I was missing a limb. The water was both incredibly calming and energizing. I could be active without feeling disabled,” she said.
Once day, the U.S. Paralympics Committee visited the wounded warriors hospital where Stockwell was doing rehab. This is when Stockwell realized the pool was reawakening her inner athlete.
“I began focusing my fitness efforts on swimming—practicing for hours until my arms ached. Eventually, in 2009, I added running and biking for another challenge, and became a Paratriathlete.”
This unfortunate situation has taught Stockwell that no matter what happens in life, you still have a choice. You can let your situation make you afraid, or you can choose to be positive and keep working hard.
“Everyone has “bombs” in life—unexpected events that rock your world. It’s up to you to decide how to react. I may be the only mom in swim class who takes off her leg before diving in, but I’m still here, I have an adorable son and an amazing husband, and the world is truly a great place.”
Stockwell is a true inspiration to us all. She is a reminder that whenever life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade.