LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Student athletes at Viterbo University got a little inspiration from Melissa Stockwell, an Iraq war veteran and fellow athlete.
Stockwell grew up dreaming of competing in the Olympics and serving in the Army. In college she joined the ROTC and in March 2004, deployed to Iraq.
A month into her deployment, Stockwell's HUMVEE was hit by a roadside bomb and she lost her leg above the knee. She was the first woman to lose a limb in the war.
"When I lost my leg back in 2004, that is kind of when it really set it and being thankful for what I had instead of choosing to be upset over what I didn't have," Stockwell said. "It's not going to grow back so just accepting and living with the fact that I will live the rest of my life without my leg."
While she accepted the loss of her leg, Stockwell refused to accept that her athletic career was over.
"After I lost my leg and got the prosthetic leg and learned to walk again, I knew I wasn't going to be myself until I became athletic again."
In 2008, four years after losing her leg above the knee, Stockwell competed as a swimmer in the Beijing Paralympics.
"I mean, it was incredible, it's like this journey and this culmination of this great adventure."
Now Stockwell shares her story with others, including athletic teams at Viterbo.
"There wasn't really a point in her story where she was like, 'yeah and then I was close to giving up,' or anything like that," said Max Doherty, a sophomore who runs Cross Country and Track and Field. "She was positive throughout the entire thing."
That positive attitude touched one athlete in particular.
"It hits me really hard because I'm currently injured, can't play softball this season," said Sami Weaver, a senior basketball and softball player who is red-shirted this year. "Hearing what she had to stay helps me stay positive, work my butt off, doing what I can do now to get back on the field. And I do have that hope that I will still get to play basketball and softball next season."
Stockwell says in the face of obstacles big or small it's important to work hard using what you've got.
"Things can happen, hopefully not but at some time they might go through something really difficult hopefully they can get the best out of it," Stockwell said.
After the Paralympics, Stockwell went to school to learn about prosthesis in order to help other amputees.
She also competes in triathlons and won the Paratriathlon World Championships the last three years.
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