Melissa Stockwell
American War Hero and Paralympic Medalist
When I woke up in the Baghdad ER on April 13, 2004, the furthest thing from my mind was being a Paralympian. At the time, I didn't even know what that word meant. After 24 years of having both my legs, I was suddenly missing one, taken from me by a roadside bomb on the streets of Iraq.

My initial thoughts were being thankful to have my life and then the endless questions on what my life would be like moving forward.

I got to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to start that process of moving forward. I saw immediately that I was one of the lucky ones. I had three good limbs, my mind, my eyesight and I was alive. It was then I made a promise to live my life for those that didn't make it back and who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I was a lucky girl. And a proud American.

The days turned into weeks and those into months. Too many surgeries, too many infections, but the constant knowledge and reassurance that things would be OK. I took my first steps on my prosthetic leg 52 days after I lost my real one. A day that reassured me that I would walk again and the assurance that I would once again be independent. But as a lifelong athlete, I wanted more. An aspiring young gymnast who dreamt of the Olympics, I was looking for something bigger. Once an athlete, always an athlete.