After a helicopter crash during my deployment in Afghanistan cost me my left leg, I struggled with a tremendous amount of pain and a lack of motivation to keep going. Despite heavy therapy (speech, cognitive, vestibular, physical and mental health) to treat my various injuries, which included a traumatic brain injury and damage to my spine, I was afraid to move forward and partake in adaptive sports for fear of hurting myself.
While my body started to recover, it took my mind more time to catch up. Recovery was a tough battle, but by changing my perspective, I've come to realize how blessed I am. I realize everything I’ve gained over the years–from the people surrounding me, to my once-in-a-lifetime experiences, to the sheer knowledge and inner strength I've developed.
While my injury may sound bleak, I don’t want any pity.
I am writing this alive and well, with a new set of goals and dreams and the hope of inspiring others to overcome their own roadblocks…those excuses that stand in your way of living your life to your fullest potential.
I am an athlete, a scholar working on my third master’s degree and a mountaineer. I aspire to climb the Seven Summits in support of humanitarian efforts. I recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with a clean water initiative (The Waterboys), and am headed to Denali for training with the first all-female veteran team to attempt a summit. Following that, I will be at Everest base camp this fall.
Regardless of what we face on our day-to-day, you control your circumstances, they do not control you.
Kirstie Ennis spent six years in the United States Marine Corps as an airframes mechanic and aerial gunner. She is now the junior director of Wounded Warrior Outdoors and can be found on Instagram (kirstie_ennis) and Twitter (@KirstieEnnis).