When she was just seventeen years old, an age when most girls were getting ready for the senior prom, Kirstie Ennis joined the U.S. Marines.
In 2012, Ennis was a helicopter door gunner fighting in Afghanistan. When her helicopter crashed, she suffered deep facial cuts, concussion, and a severe injury to her left leg. Three years later, after no less than 40 surgeries, doctors had to amputate her leg above the knee. Instead of quitting on life, Ennis took her passion for it to another level.
“I go full throttle,” she told U.S. Veterans magazine. “I come up with obnoxious goals and go after them.”
Despite never having tried snowboarding before her accident, Ennis became one of the best Paralympic snowboarders in the country. She also set out to climb the seven highest peaks in the world. However, there were bouts of depression and Ennis wondered if she would ever feel whole again.
“Dad said, ‘People in the Middle East couldn’t kill you, and now you’re going to give up?’” she recalls. “The light went on and I said, ‘I made it home. Nobody owes me a damn thing.’”
In 2017, ESPN approached her to pose in their annual body issue. Ennis wasn’t sure she wanted to put herself out there.
“I thought about it and considered the demographic and the people who would see it, she said in an interview with People magazine. “I realized that it wasn’t about me anymore. Any man, woman, or child facing some sort of adversity has the potential to be inspired by these pictures of someone who has only been missing a leg for a few years and go out and do things she wasn’t doing with two legs.”
When Ennis isn’t climbing mountains or working out, she helps build homes for veterans. At the 2019 ESPY’s, Ennis was presented with the Pat Tillman Award for Service.
“To receive the Pat Tillman Award and to be associated with a true American hero is a tremendous honor,” Ennis said in a statement in association with the Pat Tillman Foundation.
Photo Credits: Kirstie Ennis’ Instagram