At first glance, Kirstie Ennis might not fit the stereotype of a hardened warrior, but a warrior she most certainly is. A Sergeant in the Marine Corps, Kirstie was serving as an aerial door gunner on a CH-53D helicopter in Helmand province of Afghanistan when, on June 23, 2012, her helicopter crashed.
Kirstie’s injuries were significant: traumatic injuries to her brain, a broken neck, major damage to her arms and her left leg. Surgery could help with some of the recovery - her entire face was reconstructed – but some injuries proved to be too severe for physicans to do anything about. As a result, her left leg had to be amputated above the knee.
The injuries took a toll on Kirsten’s psyche, as well, and it took her a considerable time to come to terms with the self-esteem issues that such a dramatic transformation inevitably produces. Athletics proved helpful in her recovery – she had always been an active person, and as soon as she could, she took up sports once again, but with a greater conviction than ever. In 2016, she competed in the rowing, swimming and cycling events at the Invictus Games, and she followed that up by becoming the first woman with an above-the-knee amputation to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Remarkably, these are just the start of what she sees as an ongoing quest to conquer even greater challenges, like climbing the Seven Summits. Of course, even before she completes that task, she will have conquered an even greater challenge, overcoming trials that few of us could ever contemplate having to endure.