Melissa Stockwell

Former US Army 1st Lieutenant, World Champion Triathlete, 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist
Melissa Stockwell
  • First female American solider to lose a limb in active combat in Iraq
  • U.S. Army Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient
  • First Iraq War Veteran to compete at the Paralympic Games becoming a 3-Time Paratriathlon World Champion & 2-Time Paralympian
  • Inspires her audiences to embrace change and find motivation in adversity while sharing her remarkable journey of leadership, perseverance, gratitude and competitive success

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At first glance Melissa Stockwell may appear to be the quintessential Mid-Western All-American girl, but she is far more. She is an American war hero who has triumphed over personal tragedy to achieve greatness, world champion status, and she has dedicated her life to chasing remarkable accomplishments while giving back to others, particularly those who face challenges similar to her own.

In 2002, Melissa graduated from the University of Colorado and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. In March 2004, she deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. Just three weeks later, a blast from a roadside bomb struck Melissa’s Humvee causing the loss of her left leg above the knee. After enduring numerous infections and surgeries, Melissa was medically retired from the Army. She is the first female soldier to ever lose a limb in active combat and has been awarded both The Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

Following her accident, sport became the road to recovery for Melissa. In April of 2008, she became the first Iraqi War Veteran to qualify for the Beijing Paralympics.  She competed in three swimming events and was honored by her fellow Team USA athletes to be selected to carry the American flag in the closing ceremony. After Beijing, Melissa turned to the sport of Paratriathlon and is now a three-time World Champion. She was named USA Triathlon’s female Paratriathlete of the Year for two consecutive years and was twice nominated for an ESPY award.

On September 11, 2016, at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Melissa raced in honor of her fellow soldiers and their families who had given the ultimate sacrifice serving and protecting America. After a grueling race, the day ended on the podium, as the newly crowned Paralympic Bronze Medalist.

Melissa has shared her remarkable story, and the inspiring insights she has uncovered along the way, to standing ovations across the country for Fortune 500 companies, military bases, professional organizations, charities, government events, and countless schools. Earlier this year she was the breakout star of TEDx Vail 2016.

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Speaker Video

The Power of Choice

Melissa Stockwell: Choose Your Story

U.S. Army veteran Melissa Stockwell forges her purple heart into a Paralympic medal

Melissa Stockwell: Paratriathlon World Champion

Melissa Stockwell on Overcoming Obstacles


The Power of Choice: An aspiring gymnast in childhood, Melissa Stockwell dreamed of someday representing Team USA at the Olympics Games.  As college approached her Patriotic dreams shifted to representing her country as a member of the U.S. Army.  Upon graduating, she was commissioned and soon thereafter deployed to Iraq.  It was there that a roadside bomb made her the first female American solider to lose a limb in active combat.   What followed was a remarkable story of resilience and perseverance, and of the indominable spirit of a woman who chose not only to survive, but to thrive. 

Now a Paralympic medalist, a World Champion, a World Record Holder and an Ironman, Melissa’s keynote “The Power of Choice” is an emotionally commanding presentation that will both redefine your perception of disability and inspire you to rethink your own limits. 

From Wounded Warrior To World Champion: My Journey from the Battlefields of Iraq to the Beaches of Rio de Janeiro

Thriving Through Change


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