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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Melissa Stockwell, Iraq War veteran and Paralympic bronze medalist, and her service dog, Jake, visit with children at Turnstone Center For Children and Adults with Disabilities Wednesday. Stockwell was a guest speaker at the Northeast Indiana Base Community Council and Turnstone luncheon at the Plasma Center.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 3:40 pm

Iraq War veteran, Paralympian tells her story

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Melissa Stockwell has a unique way of referring to her life after April 13, 2004. She calls it Melissa Stockwell 2.0.

That was the day Stockwell, 24 and freshly arrived in Baghdad about three weeks before, was in a vehicle hit by a roadside bomb.

She didn't know where she was going that day – literally and figuratively. Her job was to learn the route to the Green Zone. That's why she was sitting in the seat behind the driver instead of in the front seat on the passenger side.

Figuratively, she had no idea that a bomb would suddenly leave her without her left leg from her thigh down, she told an audience of about 160 Wednesday during a quarterly gathering of the Northeast Indiana Base Community Council in Fort Wayne.

The group provides support for families of those serving in the military with the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, Fort Wayne, and elsewhere.

"There was a lot of blood. It was my own blood," said Stockwell, backed by a picture of the shredded vehicle she said she could not look at for months.

A pool of blood covers the sand next to where she was sitting. "My leg was actually gone. It had been severed," she said.

But Stockwell both did – and did not – let that day define her. Now, 13 years later, she is a three-time world champion triathlete and bronze-medal-winning Paralympian, a wife, and mother of a son awaiting the birth of her and her husband's second child in August. 

Which, she said with a laugh after flashing a sonogram of the baby-to-come with the image of a tiny American flag flying superimposed over its head, will begin Melissa Stockwell 3.0.

For more information, read Thursday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or return to www.journalgazette.net after 1 a.m. Thursday.

rsalter@jg.net