First Iraq Vet Selected for Beijing Paralympics

A young woman who lost her left leg to a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad recently became the first Iraq war veteran selected to compete in the Beijing Paralympics. Former Army 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell was one of 18 women selected for the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team. As the Associated Press reports:

As a first lieutenant in the Army, she was traveling through Baghdad on April 13, 2004, when a bomb ripped through her Humvee and took part of her left leg with it.Infection and surgery claimed another significant portion of her leg, leaving her with just a few inches of stump below her hip.

Doctors fitted Stockwell with a titanium prosthesis so she can walk around, but the leg comes off before she takes the starter's blocks and gets ready to swim.

"I definitely made a decision early on that I was going to put it behind me and move on and try to do something positive," Stockwell said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I lost my leg. Of course I would like to have my leg, but I have no regrets. It's opened so many doors for me."

A Wounded Warriors Project profile of Stockwell notes that she received 15 surgeries as a result of the bomb blast. At the time of the profile's publication in 2006, Stockwell was earning a second bachelors degree -- this time in prosthetics.

[Stockwell] felt absolute joy when she made a prosthetic leg for a ten-year-old girl, watched the child put the leg on, then get up and jump around. In the future, she is hoping to help wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan get their lives back through prosthetic care.

According to a Washington Post profile of Stockwell, between four and 10 disabled veterans will eventually qualify for this year's U.S. Paralympic Team. And, by the 2012 summer games in London, 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. team may be comprised of veterans.

As part of her Paralympics trials earlier this month, Stockwell set a new American record for the women's 400-meter freestyle.

Below is a video profile of Stockwell produced by the Wounded Warriors Project.