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Crawford, Texas (CNN) – Sixteen wounded veterans joined their former commander-in-chief, former President George W. Bush, for the Warrior 100k, a bike race to raise awareness for veterans issues.
One of the riders is 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell, a retired Army cavalry officer participating in her second W100K.
Stockwell lost her left leg when an improvised explosive hit the Humvee she was riding in during a deployment to Iraq in 2004. She is thought to be the first woman to lose a limb in active combat. She wears a hip-down prosthetic leg.
"To be out here with these other wounded warriors and the (former) president, it's surreal," said Stockwell.
Stockwell is an outstanding athlete – a paralympian and three-time paratriathlon world champion. She was a gymnast when she was younger, and after she lost her leg, she wanted to get back into sports.
"Luckily there are organizations out there to help you do just that. Not long after, I was skiing down mountains in Colorado, and doing a New York City marathon on a bike you pedal with your arms," said Stockwell.
She says she is a better athlete now, than before her injury.
"I've done more in my life with one leg, than I would have ever done with two," she says.
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Stockwell traveled to Boston after the marathon bombings, and talked to some of the people who suffered terrible injuries, and lost limbs. She told them they are all survivors.
"They have a spirit, like a lot of these veterans that are out here, these wounded soldiers. I mean, they had a traumatic incident that happened that you never expect.
And they can't give up, not only for themselves, to be able to get on in their every day life, but really for America. All America's eyes are on them," said Stockwell.
The wounded Iraq veteran said the Boston Marathon bombing survivors actually inspire her.
"We saw a few weeks ago what they really are capable of. It's incredible the power of the human spirit," she says.
Stockwell custom designs her prosthetic leg with stars and stripes in red, white, and blue.
"I'm a very proud American, above-the-knee amputee. I like to show it off wherever I go, and remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice," she says.
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The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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