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Wounded Vet Again Tackles Basic Training
Once her morning workout concluded, Stockwell pulled herself out of the pool and sat for a moment on the deck catching her breath, the six inches or so that remain of her left leg exposed.
"When I found out I had a second chance to go over and represent my country, I had to take it," she said later. "I went to Iraq in an Army uniform. It would be great to go back in a USA uniform."
'Your Leg Is Gone'
The quilt dotted with American flags that covered her bed and the massive flag on her wall during her childhood years in Georgia and Minnesota help explain why the daughter of Dave and Marlene Hoffman voluntarily joined the Army ROTC program as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado. While other kids dreamed of becoming doctors, professional athletes or movie stars, she aspired to wear camouflage and a U.S. crest.
"When someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be in the Army," said Stockwell, whose father worked as a financial officer and mother stayed at home. "My parents always thought it was a phase I was going through."
On her college graduation day in May 2002, she was commissioned as a second lieutenant. In a matter of months, she had married fellow soldier Dick Stockwell, and both were on their way to Iraq. Her job in the Baghdad suburb of Taji was to lead supply convoys between U.S. installations.
On the night of April 12, 2004, she called her family. Her father recalled the optimism in her voice. She said she was safe, and the coming weeks would bring a welcome change: She would be carting supplies to and from the Green Zone, the fortified center of the Iraqi government and the U.S. diplomatic mission in the center of Baghdad.
The next morning, she and four others piled into a door-less Humvee for a test run to the Green Zone. She was so excited about the new route, she took a camera with her, hoping to take pictures of the most scenic part of the city. She sat behind the driver and swung her left leg outside of the vehicle in order to better be able to handle her rifle in an emergency. She rode, as she always did, with her finger on the trigger of her M16.
About 10 minutes into the tour, she recalled, there was a deafening explosion. Someone screamed "IED! IED!" The Humvee swerved. The windshield, she noted, cracked. The vehicle bounced off a guardrail and rammed a house.
Still conscious, she looked down and saw blood all over her pants.
A medic in the vehicle traveling behind hers cut her out of her seat belt and dragged her to the ground. He tied a tourniquet tightly around her left leg, just above her knee. Stockwell tried wiggling her toes, convincing herself she could feel them.
She was loaded into the back of a pickup truck and rushed to a U.S. hospital, where she was wheeled into an operating room. When she opened her eyes hours later, her husband sat at her bedside.
"I think something happened to my leg," she said.