Protecting others that cannot protect themselves is something that 23 year old USMC Sgt. Kirstie Ennis has dedicated her life to. Graduating high school at a mere 15 years old, earning her Associate of Arts at 17, Bachelors degree at 19, her Masters degree in human behavior at 21 and at 23 she is currently working on her PhD in psychology. In between all of these college degrees, Kirstie followed in her mother and her father’s footsteps by becoming a proud Marine.
Kirstie is a tiny blond haired blue eyed, girl next door that defies what most think of when they imagine a Marine, but don’t let this small package fool you. Kirstie is a highly trained, intelligent and tough as nails young woman that does not let anything slow her down.
When I think of Kirstie, I see her in my mind as a tiny warrior that is bigger than life, dedicated to protecting those who cannot protect themselves. A Marine helicopter gunner armed with her .50-caliber machine gun, serving not one but two deployments to Afghanistan. Kirstie served our great country out of love with the desire to not only protect us from terrorists but to protect the innocent women and children that are victimized by terrorists in their own communities.
June 23, 2012, on a combat mission in Now Zad Afghanistan, Kirstie was among eight people in a helicopter that went down in a crash. All eight survived the crash, however, not without suffering major injury. The crash resulted in Kirstie having a broken ankle bone, which she is currently in limb salvage, meaning they are able to save her lower leg, for now but she is facing amputation below the knee at this time, a torn rotator cuff, torn labrum, stepping of the cervical disks in her spine, facial lacerations and trauma, shattered jaw, broken facial bones, and traumatic brain injury.
After being carried to safety, despite her injuries, Kirstie earned a Metal of Valor by helping others following the crash, all to which Kirstie has no recollection of. She simply went into shock and fell back on her training, the training that leads her to help others, no matter the cost nor situation.
Kirstie is now medically retired but she is not slowing down. Kirstie has big plans to continue to serve others and plans to continue her mission working with other veteran service men and women because she has been there, she knows first-hand what they are going through, she has been in the military, and feels that her service will make her more effective at helping others who have served our great nation and now face physical injuries that are evident and invisible like PTSD.
While finalizing her PhD, Kirstie is going to train with the US Paralympic Development team in snowboarding. But that’s not all…
Kirstie loves the outdoors and understands first-hand the therapeutic benefits that are found only on the mountain under the watchful eye of Mother Nature and has been hunting and fishing all over the United States and Canada, some trips with the Wounded Warrior Outdoors, Adventures Enabled Program.
Those who participate in WWO, will discover or rediscover their abilities on the mountain and often times learn that disability is as much a mind-set as it is a physical limitation. One day on the mountain in the WWO program has the therapeutic equivalent of two weeks in hospital therapy. In the outdoors, healing is found in both visible and invisible ways that one simply cannot imagine until you witness it first-hand.
Having personally served WWO for three years, once I learned about this remarkable young woman and her story, I wanted to meet her. In May, Kirstie and I were set to hunt black bears together in British Columbia with WWO but a schedule change resulted in us missing one another on the trip.
Sometimes, the good Lord has plans that cannot be derailed and during her May hunt in BC, I received a phone call stating that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation had invited her on an elk hunt, one that I wouldn’t miss for the world. In September, teaming up with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, RMEF volunteers, Roseburg Resource Company and Team Elk, Kirstie went on her first elk hunt in California.
Stay tuned for season 5 of RMEF’s Team Elk on the Outdoor Channel to see the first of what I hope to be many adventures together during our remarkable hunt. This is a double dose of Kristy Marie and Kirstie Marie and our twin Rhodesian Ridgeback hounds, for an action packed blonde hair, blue eyed girl power elk hunt and find out for yourself just how big Kirstie’s heart, determination and spirit really is. Take it from me, this young lady wears a super woman cape that is bigger than the sky.