Paralympic Veteran This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The 2008 Paralympics took place in Beijing, China, in September. Team USA included many Iraq War ­veterans and amputees. Army Specialist Scott Winkler and First Lieutenant ­Melissa Stockwell are two Paralympic athletes who despite their disabilities proudly represented their country.

Scott Winkler was a sprinter in high school. As he grew up, he wanted to
fight for his country. In 2003, during
military duty in Tikrit, Iraq, he endured
a spinal injury falling from a truck and was paralyzed from the waist down. The Olympic Training Center (which includes Paralympics) was located near his rehabilitation center. Winkler now holds the American Adaptive Shot Put Record, the World Adaptive Shot Put Record, and multiple medals in javelin, shot put, and other field sports. “I have been ‘reborn’ since being wounded. Today, when I am not training, I spend time helping ­disabled children and anyone else I can,” he says.

In 2004, Melissa Stockwell was hit by a roadside bomb when she was leading a convoy through Baghdad. Her left leg had to be amputated above the knee.

When Stockwell talked to her best friend, Tiffany Meister, “her voice was kinda shaky,” Meister recalls. The con­versation was ­simple.

“I was in an accident.”

“Are you okay?”

“Well, I lost a leg.”

“We both started crying hysterically, but then immediately, I was like, ‘But you’re alive and you are coming home. It could be so much worse.’ We started talking about all the amazing things they are doing with prosthetics,” says Meister.

Adversity has only made Stockwell stronger. “I spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, undergoing many surgeries and rehabilitation. I received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, one year, one week, and one leg later,” she says.

Stockwell needed to learn how to control her prosthetic. Swimming was part of the physical therapy, and her goal became the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Games. Last January she dedicated herself completely to the sport. The trials in April were nerve-wracking. She swam harder than ever since she knew her competition would be the toughest she had faced. She set a U.S. record in the 400 freestyle trials with a time of 5:03.08. Melissa posted qualifying times allowing her to advance to the U.S. Paralympic team.

She competed in the 100 freestyle, the 400 freestyle, and the 100 butterfly in Beijing. She exclaimed, “Making the team was a dream that came true for me. I am glad it was me and not someone else. I have done more with one leg than I ever did with two.”

Walt Disney said, “All our dreams come true if we have the courage to ­pursue them.” These athletes dreamed of protecting and fighting for their country. Some even gave a limb for it. But both Winkler and Stockwell believe it happened for a reason: to achieve something higher than what they had already done.

These courageous soldiers did not ­complain about their injury but made it an opportunity. The Paralympics isn’t just a get-together for amputees or people born without a limb – it’s a celebration
of ability, optimism, and magnificent ­determination.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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remembermeplz said...
Mar. 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm

thesse r amazing people,u r an amazing writer

keep it up

volleyballrox said...
Feb. 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm
I loved this article! it touched the inner points of my heart! You did a very good job writing this!
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