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On April 13, 2004, Melissa Stockwell became the first-ever female American soldier to lose a limb in active combat.

“I was on a routine convoy through central Baghdad. I was in a Humvee. It was struck by a roadside bomb, which resulted in the loss of my left leg above the knee,” she said.

But Stockwell, who had always been an athlete, refused to let her injury slow her down. She learned to walk — and then to cycle and run — with a prosthetic leg. And those lessons carried her all the way to the 2016 Rio Paralympics.


On Sunday, Sept. 11, the Purple Heart recipient took home a different kind of medal. Stockwell, 36, won bronze in the women’s Paralympic triathlon.

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The date was especially meaningful for Stockwell, who is married with a 1-year-old son.

“I probably read that 50 times, making sure that I was reading that it was the right date,” she said. “I don’t even know how to put that into words.”

In fact, Sept. 11 was an extraordinary day for Team USA. The American women swept the triathlon podium, with Allysa Seely winning gold and Hailey Danisewicz taking home silver.

(L to R) Silver medalist Hailey Danisewicz, Gold medalist Allysa Seely and Bronze medalist Melissa Stockwell of the United States celebrate on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Triathlon Women's T2 at Forte de Copacabana on day 4 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Raphael Dias/Getty Images for the International Paralympic Committee)
(L to R) Silver medalist Hailey Danisewicz, Gold medalist Allysa Seely and Bronze medalist Melissa Stockwell of the United States celebrate on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Triathlon Women’s T2 at Forte de Copacabana on day 4 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Raphael Dias/Getty Images for the International Paralympic Committee)

Stockwell, who also swam for Team USA during the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, hopes her story inspires others to achieve their dreams, regardless of the obstacles in their way.

“You have no idea what you’re capable of until you give it a try,” she said. “You’re really trying to push the limit every time to really make yourself stronger, and you can’t give up when it gets hard.”

“I’ve done more in my life with one leg than I ever would’ve done with two,” she added.

(H/T: Team USA)

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