Model: Kelly Elmlinger

“Inclusion” and “differences” are intriguing ideas for me. Even in childhood, I believed value could be gained from individuals with contrasting upbringings. There is beauty in diversity, and embracing this enriched my life. My military background exposed me to a myriad of people, ideas, and concepts, allowing me to appreciate inclusiveness. It was fitting, therefore, that I became “different” on the outside and inside.

Sports has been my outlet—my “me time” to sort out life, relieve stress, and think through tough decisions. Finding adaptive sports after my cancer diagnosis improved my and my daughter’s quality of life. It is a positive outlet where I can boldly express the passion I have for pushing the body’s abilities. The journey I have taken is something I would choose again. It has not been easy; however, the benefits and opportunities gained from being a cancer survivor and amputee are beyond measure. My daughter values, respects and treats others with impairments as human beings who are not “less than.”

Missing a leg is not a good reason to stop being the person, soldier, and mother I want to be. I push hard in all facets of life and do things simply because I can and to honor my friends and those who did not return home from deployments. I refuse to not live up to my potential and often think, “If they were looking down, what would they think of me?” And…I want them to be proud that I chose ability over disability.


Photographed by Jayden Kolehmainen and Maryann Schino