Former Marine Kirstie Ennis is on the cover of ESPN The Magazines Body Issue, building her the first veteran to receive the high-profiled honor.
Like Ennis, athletes such as Caroline Wozniacki, Antonio Brown, April Ross, Dwyane Wade, and Courtney Conlogue also stripped down for the publication. They were in a separate edition of the Body issue.
The Heroes Project reported Ennis joined the Marine Corps at age 17 in Pensacola, Florida. During the six years she served, she performed as a helicopter doorway gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-5 3 platforms.
In 2012, during her last deployment to Afghanistan, her helicopter crashed while performing combat resupplies to FOB Now Zad. Ennis suffered an amputation below the knee, facial trauma, a brain injury, cervical and lumbar spine trauma, as well as bilateral shoulder injury. She medically retired as a Sergeant in 2014. Then in 2015, her leg was amputated again above the knee.
However, the incident hasnt stop Ennis from biding active. ESPN revealed she competed in rowing, swimming, and outdoor cycling at the 2016 Invictus. In March, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, stimulating her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit the mountain. Shes currently training to join the 2018 U.S. Paralympic snowboard team and compete at the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang next March.
People think I have this crazy robotic, hydraulic leg that I must stroll faster and this must be better than my old human leg, she explained. I giggle about that. I stumble over my feet all the time! One of the things I learned[ after the amputation] is that its what behind your rib cage and the six inches between your ears that are important. If you have your head and your heart in the right place and go into things laughing and smiling, its going to be smooth sailing.
Ennis credited sports, as well as her no-nonsense military training, for helping her build confidence after the crash.
In the military and in sports, you put your body through hell, she said. You push the limits and you transgress any expectation “youve had” of yourself. They violate you down and reshape you. I dont think someone whos not canadian athletes, active duty, or a veteran would ever understand. Its not only a physical process; its mental and emotional. Whether youre on a team playing a athletic or fighting alongside your brothers and sisters in arms, you know damn well the person to your left and to your right has your back no matter what.
Ennis is also grateful that despite the physical setbacks, she made it out alive.
Its been a long, hard road but Im confident and comfy in the skin Im in now, she added. I constructed it home alive. There are a lot of men and women who didnt. I am living, breathing, strolling, everyone to honor them.
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