Convention emcee spreads message of unity, patriotism

April 13, 2004, is the day that Army 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell says began her life journey.

On that day, Stockwell became the first American woman to lose a limb in combat when a roadside bomb detonated near her Humvee in a town north of Baghdad, Iraq. She shared her inspiring story Aug. 28 as the emcee of The American Legion’s 100th National Convention in Minneapolis.

“I am so honored just be a part of this event with all the distinguished guests and all the veterans here,” she said after her speech. “I am so grateful to be a part of this. The American Legion helps make veterans like myself be the best versions of ourselves. To be here and to become a member of the Legion is awesome. I am very humbled.”

Stockwell is the first member of her family to join the military. After initial worries from her parents, they learned to “love it as I do — always strong and steadfast.”

In March 2004, she left on a year-long deployment that only lasted three weeks. She cherished her role as platoon leader. “In my mind, they are the 20 greatest soldiers I have ever worked with.”

Stockwell recalled the day a surgeon said her left leg was gone. “Twenty-four years of my life I had two legs, and suddenly I had one. That is the day my real life journey began.”

The Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient spent a year recovering and rehabilitating at Walter Reed Medical Center. From there, she has been a multiple-time Paratriathlon world champion, won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, became a mother to two children and started her own nonprofit.

“Losing a leg didn’t stop me from doing anything in my life,” she said. “I proudly represented my country in two Paralympic Games.”

On Sept. 11, 2016, Stockwell won a bronze medal. “I stood on the podium to receive my medal, proudly representing my country and showing the world how much ability is in disability. That is one of the greatest moments in my entire life.”

Her next athletic goal is to represent Team USA at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. At the same time, she will continue to spread her message of patriotism, unity and inspiration.

“As we all continue our life journey, let’s work together, let’s be true to ourselves, let’s believe in who we are and let’s never stop believing in the greater good of America by standing tall and proud and flying our flags as high as we can.”