2020 Recipient Melissa Nueva Headshot

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Melissa Nueva

$120 of $5,000 raised

Former TSgt. Melissa, Nueva, USAF

Technical Sergeant Melissa Nueva has enjoyed a long and fulfilling career in the United States Air Force, from simple beginnings to meeting the love of her life. She had always held a fascination with aircraft and possibly joining the military but decided first to go to college, trying her hand at criminal justice and art during her tenure. However, she found little passion in the work and wanted to explore new options, when the proposal of the Air Force came up once again. She went to a recruiter and joined up not long after, considering it the best decision she had ever made. She moved from position to position working as a personnel specialist, flight attendant for dignitaries, and as a training manager.

She met her husband through the Air Force, and they have since settled down with twins. However, Melissa’s active lifestyle would begin to sour as a litany of health problems began to develop. Her sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer and tested positive for the BRKA gene, a common marker for breast cancer risk and runs in families. Melissa got tested herself as a precautionary measure, discovering she had it as well. She went ahead with a preventative double mastectomy. As she healed after surgery she continued to ask why she was left with joint pain, a situation that started in her 30’s and worsened over time. Looking for answers she saw and baffled a number of doctors before she was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and lupus.

Melissa has good days and bad days with her disability, often walking around well during the former and using a cane, walker, and occasionally a wheelchair during the latter. She retired from the Air Force after 21 years with her husband following soon after, giving them more time to look after their two kids. She joined the Wounded Warrior Recovery Program, which helped her come to terms with her mobility and accepting that she’s not as spry as she used to be. Through the program, she learned about the Dive Pirates Foundation and the opportunity of becoming an adaptive diver. Though she has little experience with the sport, she is excited to begin training and experience the world under the waves.

Melissa will be training with her buddy Heidi Johnson, with DiVentures Omaha, NE.

Adaptive Buddy Heidi Johnson Headshot

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