Just like most of 2020, the launch of U.S. veteran and Paralympian Melissa Stockwell’s book wasn’t to plan. Debuting last July in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which was postponed due to COVID-19, The Power of Choice: From Wounded Warrior to World Champion is an ode to living life to the fullest despite the circumstances at hand.
The theme of the book derives from its title. “The hope is that [readers] look at their own life and all obstacles that come with it,” Stockwell says. “Where it is going, where they want it to be and the steps to take to make it happen.”
The book explores Stockwell’s journey through childhood as an athlete, her service in the U.S. military, her divorce, founding a successful nonprofit (Dare2Tri, an organization enhancing the lives of individuals with physical disabilities and visual impairments through swimming, biking and running) launching a career in prosthetics, finding new love and having two children.
Devoting her childhood to gymnastics, Stockwell later developed a desire to serve her country. She enrolled in the ROTC at the University of Colorado and when she graduated, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in the transportation corps.
Just weeks after her deployment to Iraq in 2004, Stockwell lost her left leg in a routine patrol, making her the first female soldier to lose a limb in active combat. During her long recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center, Stockwell says she had the pivotal choice of accepting her loss or wallowing in self-pity.
In 2008, Stockwell became the first Iraq War veteran to join a U.S. Paralympic team where she competed in three swimming events. However, she did not make it to finals. Continuing her journey toward success, she went on to win three Paratriathlon World Championship titles and claimed bronze in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Brazil.
With a desire to share her triumphant journey, Stockholm reached out to longtime friend and co-writer Stuart Lieberman of Edina. The two met in Colorado Springs, where Stockwell was training and Lieberman was interning with the media department for the Olympic and Paralympic committee in the summer of 2008. Working together to capture her experiences, Lieberman wrote from her point of view and Stockwell edited it to enhance her voice and improve the integrity of the story.
After working with Stockwell, Lieberman says he has become a more positive person. “I think the most rewarding thing that I gained from this is perspective,” he says. “I hope the readers can too take some time to reflect and see what their perspective is on their own lives. If this book can inspire one person’s life, then it is a victory.”
The Power of Choice is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.