Speaking to the World
Boston | Chicago | San Diego | Atlanta
American Two-Time Paralympian & Former U.S. Army Officer
After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2002, Melissa Stockwell was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army’s transportation corps. One month after being deployed to Iraq, in April 2004, she became the first female American soldier in history to lose a limb in active combat after her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. She was later honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for her service. Four years later, she became the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the Paralympic Games, competing in swimming at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. She was selected to be the flag bearer for Team USA at the Beijing closing ceremonies. Read More >
After Beijing, Stockwell shifted her focus to triathlon because she enjoyed the variety that it gave her. She made her elite ITU debut in 2009 and went on to earn three consecutive world titles from 2010-2012. In 2016, she earned a spot on the inaugural U.S. paratriathlon team for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, which featured the sport as a medal event for the first time. She earned a bronze medal in the PTS2 category, sharing the podium as part of a U.S. sweep with silver medalist Hailey Danz and gold medalist Allysa Seely.
Stockwell is a co-founder of the Chicago-based Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club with Keri Serota and Dan Tun. She is a USA Triathlon Level I certified coach and serves as a mentor and friend to her fellow Dare2tri athletes as they train and compete. She also serves on the board of directors for the Wounded Warriors Project, USA Triathlon Foundation, and the USA Triathlon Women’s Committee. She is a licensed prosthetist but is currently training for triathlon full-time at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One of her pre-race rituals is that she always has to eat gummy worms the night before a race. She is married to Brian Tolsma and has two children, Dallas and Millie. Read Less ^
Meet Team USA’s Melissa Stockwell
Tedx: Choose Your Story
Why Veteran Melissa Stockwell Competes in the Paralympics
The Inspirational Story of Melissa Stockwell
Heroes at Home
"Nearly every ALA Convention attendee made it a point to share that your speech was the highlight of the entire week. All were inspired by your story and the courage and determination you have demonstrated as the life of Melissa 2.0 unfolds. Every Speaker for the remainder of the Convention referenced your Speech. Honestly, Melissa, folks simply couldn’t stop raving about you and P&G benefited by association. Personally, it was an absolute honor and pleasure to meet you. I had high expectations…..you exceeded mine as both a Speaker and an Individual. The quality (intellect, poise, humor) in which you conduct yourself is very impressive Melissa."
"We were so happy to have Melissa speak at our Sales and Marketing Offsite. There was not a dry eye in the audience and she left us all feeling inspired, motivated and incredibly proud to have her on our team."
"Melissa, you forced us to take stock of how we view our own lives with your TEDxVail Talk, 'Choose Your Story.' We laughed when you flipped your leg completely around to show off your sweet new dance move. You stand on one leg with more courage and grace than many of us do on two. You moved hundreds to tears in the audience. Thanks, Melissa, for your powerful idea! You entice us all to choose life stories worth repeating."
"The guests at our Kids Rank: Ribbons of Character Benefit were completely engaged and inspired by our honoree Melissa Stockwell. Her story of determination and perseverance all with an optimistic attitude were exactly why she was chosen for our annual award. Beyond her incredible combat story, it is her continuing life's journey and her ability to make a human connection with people which made her time with us an unforgettable experience."
"Melissa’s story and message to our health professional graduates was inspiring, challenging and encouraged each of us to live bold and full lives. It moved, not only our graduates, but the 1600 family members and friends in attendance. It was the first time in my 25 years of academics to see an entire audience spontaneously rise to give a commencement speaker a standing ovation…and that ovation was well-deserved."
"Thank you again for being our keynote speaker. The sharing of your experience gave all present, a new heightened sense of our mission. You truly delivered a ‘gold- medal’ message that set a can- do, must- do direction. Thank you."
"Melissa Stockwell tells an American story that is all about inspiration and not at all about self-pity. I have seen her bring a whole roomful of legislators to tears with her straight talk and sincere patriotism."
"Melissa’s story inspires and drives home an important message fitting for any audience: success is driven by focusing on what you do have as opposed to what you don’t. What Melissa has already accomplished in her life is remarkable and it is clear her best is yet to come."
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