American swimmer Melissa Stockwell (Colorado Springs, Colo./ Minneapolis, Minn.) has been selected by the U.S. delegation as flag bearer for the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. Stockwell, who lost her left leg to a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq, is the first veteran injured in Iraq to compete on the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team.
"Coming over here [to Beijing], I've been so proud to wear the USA uniform and be a part of the team," said Stockwell, who was nominated by her peers to serve as Team USA's flag bearer. "To now walk and hold the flag is a huge honor, especially knowing that I'll be alongside all of my teammates, who have accomplished so much. To be the one representing them is pretty incredible."
"The fact that Melissa was nominated by the volleyball team shows the amount of respect she gets from fellow Paralympians," said Dave Denniston (Longmont, Colo.), co-captain of the men's Paralympic Swimming Team. "She absolutely deserves to be carrying that flag."
In her first Paralympic Games competition, Stockwell competed in the women's S9 100m butterfly, 100m freestyle and 400m freestyle. "This experience has been better than anything else I've ever done," she said. "To end like that, carrying the flag, is just amazing. It will complete my whole experience."
Stockwell lives and trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., as part of the Veterans Paralympic Performance Program (VP3). For her service to the U.S., Stockwell was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.