Veteran, paralympian, mom – just three of the roles Melissa Stockwell has played in her life.
As a soldier in Iraq, Stockwell became the first servicewoman to lose a limb in combat. But though she lost her left leg, she didn’t lose her fighting spirit.
“I don’t think about myself as someone with a disability,” said Stockwell. “It’s more about how much ability I still have. So if the audience can look at me and hear what I can do and walk out into the public and see somebody with a wheelchair or an amputation or a visual impairment and they don’t feel sorry for them. They look at them and think about what they are still able to do and they are still living lives just like the rest of us are.”
Stockwell completed rehab and began training for the 2008 Paralympic Games as a swimmer. She was disappointed in her performance at the games, and refocused her athletic pursuits to paratriathlon.
She quickly ascended to the top of her new sport and when she returned to the Olympics in 2016, Stockwell finally got to the podium, winning a bronze medal.
Stockwell stressed that keeping the right mindset is the key to her success – a view she hopes to spread to others.
“I want people to walk out of the room after hearing my story and my message with an ‘I can do anything’ kind of attitude,” said Stockwell. “The idea of whatever obstacles come their way that you can kind of choose your own path. They’ll all have obstacles come their way and when they do it’s up them decide to push through them, to persevere and end up better on the other side.”
Stockwell is also the co-founder of Dare2Tri, a Chicago-based triathlon club for athletes with disability.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.