Thursday, June 2, 2011

Melissa Hoffman Stockwell: Soldier, Paralympian, Role Model

Every now and then, we share our work we've done around the swimming world. Here's a story written on Monday (Memorial Day) about the impact meeting Melissa Stockwell had on my life.

For those of you who don't know, Melissa was a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq. While there, she lost her leg. During therapy, Melissa discovered the sport of swimming. She eventually became a U.S. Paralympic swimmer.

If you get a second, Check out the story here. 

I met Melissa back in 2008 while covering a Paralympic swim meet in Michigan. Immediately, she made an impact on me. She didn't complain. She was humble. She was kind. She was just voted ABC's "Person of the Week" -- though you wouldn't even notice it by talking to her. Most U.S. soldiers I meet are this way. Incredibly humble. Incredibly team-oriented.

Or simply incredible. 

Some days, I flip on the TV, and I see her image (she's now featured in a commercial for The Hartford Financial Group). I remember when I met her in Michigan three years ago. She is the very definition of someone who has made the most out of her situation, who played the cards she was dealt, who has lived life with passion. While I struggle to even swim 2000 yards, here is this veteran soldier, competing for our country, swimming up and down the pool, with only one leg.

She reminds me of another swimmer I met that day: Rudy Garcia-Tolson. He lost both of his legs, yet became the first above the knee double-amputee person in history to complete an Ironman. Think about that. He completed an Ironman... with no legs. 

You meet these people, and it changes your life. I sincerely wish NBC would cover more Paralympic events. They are some of the most inspiring people you'll ever meet. 

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