Melissa Stockwell

Former US Army 1st Lieutenant, World Champion Triathlete, 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist
Melissa Stockwell Photo
  • 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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Melissa Stockwell was the first female American Soldier to lose a limb in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb on April 13, 2004, resulting in the loss of her left leg, above the knee. She was honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for her service.

Four years later she represented the USA again, this time as a member of the US Paralympic Swim Team where she was the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the Paralympic Games. She would return to the Paralympic Games twice more, in 2016 and 2020, this time in triathlon. She has remained one of the world’s most elite Para-triathletes, winning three World Championship titles and the 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist. She is both a World Record holding marathon runner and an Ironman.

Away from the field of play, in 2011 she co-founded the non-profit organization Dare2tri Paratriathlon club which serves youth and adults with physical disabilities along with injured service members. Dare2tri provides adaptive equipment, training, coaching, and support in triathlon.

In 2019, Melissa and her husband, Brian Tolsma, opened the doors to Tolsma Stockwell Prosthetics, providing state of the art, custom made orthotics and prosthetics to the amputee community, including some of the top adaptive athletes in the world.

Melissa is one of the most critically acclaimed inspirational speakers in the country, and the author of The Power of Choice.

Melissa is the proud mother of Dallas (2014) and Mille (2017) and lives with her family near the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

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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

Leading Through The Power of Choice


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