This week, we celebrate the 4th of July holiday that marks the birthday of America’s independence. However, we also celebrate those who have fought and continue to fight to protect our great nation’s freedom. Today, we highlight Marine Corps. Sgt. Kirstie Ennis’ inspiring story and thank her for her service to our country as we remember during this holiday that freedom is not free.
When Kirstie Ennis’ chopper went down in Afghanistan back in 2012, she thought she would die. Four years into the Marines, she was on her second tour of duty there when the crash happened. Waking up at the site, her teeth were gone – as was half of her jaw. Her leg had been nearly ripped off and she was coming in and out of consciousness. Life flighted to Germany and then on to Walter Reed Hospital, a long recovery began. From there it was to San Diego and Balboa Medical Center where she would undergo countless other surgeries in the months ahead. Eventually, she had to retire from the Corps when it became clear that her leg would have to be amputated.
Her bitterness led to a fateful day when she tried to take her own life, failing in the attempt. As he had done so many other days, her dad visited her that day and challenged her. “The enemy couldn’t destroy you, so now you’re going to destroy yourself?” Kirstie shared that she had no answer but that inside she continued to burn with anger over all that had happened.
It was then that people from Disabled sports USA asked if her if she would be interested in moving to Colorado and taking up the sport of snowboarding. At first, she was incredulous: “snowboarding, I thought to myself – why I can barely put weight on my leg the pain is so intense. But the thought of being back outside and active called to me. And after only one time rocketing down the mountain, I was hooked – it was sheer bliss!”
Slowly, Kirstie healed emotionally and physically as she spent day after day on the slopes. By the summer of 2013, she was ready to do a thousand mile hike across Britain with a small group of wooded vets in a program called Walking With The Wounded. They climbed the tallest peaks in the British Isles and Prince Harry even joined them for a part of the trip.
In reflecting back, Kirstie shares, “Some days are agony as I try to push myself beyond my limits. But I have learned that when I do that, I discover just how much further I can really go.” Kirstie has just this past month summited Alaska’s Denali Mountain.
Amazing what a person can do when they’re determined to truly live. Let’s allow Kirstie’s life to inspire us to overcome our limitations and live a life of abundance, a life of joy!