In the snow and cloud cover peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 5,895 meters above the lush savannah in Tanzania, Kirstie Ennis reached a summit. Not just in completing a hike that causes more than half of its participants to bow out, but by being the first woman with an above-the-knee amputation to reach the top.
Kirstie’s journey to Kilimanjaro’s summit began in Pensacola, Florida when she was only 17 years old. It was then that she joined the United States Marine Corps, dedicating six years of her life working as an aerial gunner and airframes mechanic on CH-53 helicopters.
The day of June 23, 2012 started as “any other flight plan, any other mission I had been on in Afghanistan,” Kirstie recalled during an interview with ESPN this past June. She was flying over Afghanistan doing a supply drop and a pick up for her fellow marines when her CH-53 went down.
Kirstie lost six of her comrades that day, while she suffered traumatic injuries to her face, brain, and spine. Her shoulders and left leg were also severely damaged, resulting in the eventual loss of her left leg right above her kneecap.
Though the initial recovery tested all aspects of her strength, Kirstie refused to give up. She found mental, physical and emotional solace in sports, taking up activities like swimming, rowing, outdoor cycling and even snowboarding.
Now, almost two years after her amputation, Kirstie is training to make the US snowboarding team in the 2018 Winter Paralympics next March. She also medically retired out of the Marine Corps as a sergeant, and has gone on to earn her master’s degree in psychology and is in the process of getting her master’s in business administration. Her next goal is to reach the Seven Summits, a task far greater than most people could ever endure.
But Kristie is different. She embodies the drive and purpose that mark her as a true Cadira HERO. Through her determination, perseverance, and dedication to her physical fitness, she’s achieved more than she could have possibly imagined. We are inspired by her vigor and are proud to call her a Cadira HERO.