Melissa Stockwell was just 24 years old in April of 2004, commissioned as a 2d Lieutenant from ROTC in Colorado and assigned as a second lieutenant platoon leader in the Army’s transportation corps to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She’d been in country three weeks, and was already becoming accustomed to the heat and the dust, the long straight desert roads over which she led convoys of trucks.
The morning of the day her life would change forever began as every other morning did in the sandbox “I woke up in the morning- we had a convoy into central Baghdad to deliver some supplies,” Stockwell remembers.
“It was early on in the war, and we didn’t really have all the equipment we needed– meaning that had nobody had doors on the vehicles, there wasn’t armor on the vehicle. But you really don’t think twice about it because you have a mission to do, and you do it regardless.”
Stockwell’s convoy was briefed on the dangers, what had happened the day before, and any additional precautions that should be taken.
“We took off out of our base and about ten minutes into the mission we went over this bridge and there was just this boom! deafening boom.”
Stockwell has told this story before, and does not show emotion as she continues.
“There is black smoke everywhere, the smell of metal and the windshields crashed in, our vehicle swerving and we end up crashing into this Iraqi woman’s house.”
The soldiers did as they were trained, climbing out of and surrounding their vehicle facing out for security.
But they quickly realized something was wrong.
“There was a lot of blood,” Stockwell said. “Lucky for me there was a combat medic two vehicles back. He realized I was injured, and he rushed up, pulled me out of the vehicle by my flak vest — my bulletproof vest — and he laid me there in the sands of Iraq.”
“I was losing a lot of blood. He started a tourniquet– you know, I was awake through all of it. the helicopter never came so I was put in the back of his HUMVEE.”
When the medic put on the tourniquet, the pain shot through her like fire.