Exclusive Q&A: Melissa Stockwell is ready for the Paralympic Games
Melissa Stockwell's road to Rio is one of triumph over tragedy.
An Iraq war veteran, Stockwell lost her left leg when a roadside bomb exploded as she was leading a convoy in Baghdad in 2004. Fast forward to now -- and in addition to working with Chobani on its new campaign promoting health and wellness in one's life, she is ready to compete in her second Paralympic Games, this time as a paratriathlete.
Chobani has a history of sponsoring athletes directly as part of its commitment to supporting athletes who share the brand's mission to eliminate "bad stuff" from their lives in exchange for goodness and positive choices.
Through its founding food philosophy of using only natural, non-GMO ingredients and never using artificial preservatives, sweeteners or flavors, Chobani has always believed you can only be great if you're full of goodness.
Melissa spoke about that campaign, her past and the road ahead with AOL.com.
Q: How did you get involved with Chobani and the cool campaign they've been working on?
A: It's been pretty awesome. I'm honored to be a part of Chobani's new ad campaign, which is about eliminating bad stuff from your life. Positive choices, regardless of tough situations in life, all the way down to what you put in your body. Since losing my leg over 12 years ago, I've had some tough times, trying to turn the negative and make it a positive, so the values of Chobani really came through and I'm proud to align myself with them on my journey to Rio.
Q: When you were a kid, was being a world-class athlete the biggest goal?
A: When I was younger, I was a gymnast and wanted to go to the Olympics. Obviously, that never happened, but when after I lost my leg in 2012, I learned of the US Paralympics. It was like I second chance to rep my country. A dream was born very quickly and I realized somehow, someway, I had to be involved. I made i to he 2008 staging in swimming.
Q: Where does that rank among the most proud moments of your life?
A: It was pretty amazing. I lost my leg four years earlier and it was like this whole circle. I went from Baghdad to Beijing and it put everything together. It made everything make sense. It was a defining moment in my life.
Q: When you received the Purple Heart, what was that experience like?
A: I don't think you ever expected to get that. I went into the military knowing I could get injured -- and thankfully I only lost my leg. I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's something I was expecting.
Q: What inspired you to originally join the army?
A: I love my country. Short and sweet with that one.
Q: When you first set your sights on the Paralympics, was there ever any hesitation? Or did you have the utmost confidence all along the way?
A: I started out as a swimmer and I needed to get much faster. The Paralympics, like the Olympics, is all about hard work and training. It's a long shot, but hard work is rewarded and dreams do come true.
Q: What are you looking forward to most in Rio?
A: Representing my country, definitely, and wearing that USA uniform. Having it all pay off.