Unbreakable: A Wounded Warrior Loses Her Leg But Not Her Spirit

For most of us, the thought of serving in the United States Armed Forces comes with a lot of “what ifs”. This wasn’t true for Kirstie Ennis. Then again, Kirstie isn’t an ordinary woman with ordinary goals. With her sights set on serving for twenty years, Kirstie began her journey at the age of 17 when she was recruited to work on helicopters and participate in aerial missions for the Marine Corps. Six years later, during her second tour of duty in Afghanistan, her helicopter fell from the sky and crashed to the ground.

Though she survived the brutal crash, the course of Kirstie’s life was forever changed. What followed were 38 surgeries to repair massive brain and jaw damage, broken bones and burns. Ultimately, she would need to have a below the knee amputation – but not before participating in the 1000 Mile Walk for Britain an annual trek that honors the fallen. Knowing that she would soon lose most of her left leg, she opted to walk barefoot to experience the sensations of different surfaces for one last time. This is just one example of how Kirstie conquers challenges that would make the rest of us cower in fear, and how her bravery proves that beauty truly comes from within.

Kirstie knew that preparing for an amputation was no small emotional feat so she wrote herself a letter to read on the harder days that would surely come.

“When I was initially hurt I struggled with my self-esteem and really suffered with body image…so to remind myself of the beauty of my evolution, I had a friend take some ‘sexy shots’ of me without a prosthetic leg and with a very visible incision line.”

Friends were so inspired by both her transition and her attitude that they encouraged her to share it all on a public forum, knowing what a powerful statement it could send to others who were struggling with similar issues. Naturally, social media started to then play a role in her recovery because she was able to update her loved ones as well as receive encouragement from people all over the world. But Kirstie had much more support than the kind she got from awe-inspired strangers. Her mother left her job to be her caregiver and her father and sister stood by her side during her operation. Brian Meyer, Kirstie’s significant other, a fellow amputee and wounded warrior, has also been her rock and inspiration.

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Shockingly, Kirstie said that losing her leg was not the hardest part of recovering from her accident. The traumatic brain injury and the posttraumatic stress were much harder. She said that when she first saw her leg after the surgery, she didn’t think much of it other than how light it felt. In fact, she laughs about almost kicking the doctor in the face. Not surprisingly, she said that she got so bored being in the recovery room, that after two hours, she was up and on a walker. With this kind of unusual grit, it’s hard to imagine anything ever knocking her back down. But her recovery took a turn for the worse and she was sent back to the hospital due to complications from bacterial infections.  Her leg began to rot from the inside and the doctors actually compared her internal flesh to jelly. With such a massive infection, they needed to cut above her knee in order to save both her leg and her life. She was terrified that if they did cut above the knee – the one thing she had hoped they wouldn’t have to do – that she would never race again (she credits snowboarding as saving her life after joining Team Semper Fi  a rehabilitative sports program for service members). But she refused to give up hope.

“I made the decision to keep on living…I made the decision to keep fighting –this wasn’t my time to go again.”

One of the most vital tools of her recovery has been letting herself cry. And for someone who was always on the move, she accepted the fact that she needed to stop and rest. She was recently casted for her first prosthetic limb and became determined to master her new leg. She plans to get back onto her snowboard and wants to swim and row to prepare for the Invictus Games, an international Paralymic style multi-sport event for injured veterans.

Kirstie says that the most important thing she’s learned has been the realization that beauty comes from the inside.

“It has nothing to do with anything on the surface as there is beauty hidden in our imperfections,” she says. “We grow from our imperfections …and when we grow, we grow stronger and there is beauty in strength.”

“I’ve used it to motivate me, really. This too shall pass and I will come back more whole than I have ever been.” 

She also says she hasn’t felt much depression over losing her leg. From the moment that her leg was amputated, she decided that she would look upon this experience as another challenge to overcome and an opportunity to be the very best person that she could be. “I’ve used it to motivate me, really. This too shall pass and I will come back more whole that I have ever been.”

NOTE FROM GLAM4GOOD:   We are grateful to the Bob Woodruff Foundation who introduced us to the inspiring Kirstie Ennis. It was an honor to pamper Kirstie and GLAM4GOOD with her for her appearance on the Madision Square Garden stage to speak at the Stand Up For Heroes event.

24 Comments

  • Gia McKinzie says:

    Truely inspiring story. Thank you for sharing your most vulnerable self. My husband lost both of his legs due to diabetes. Both above the knee…he adapted..we adapted and I always saw him as the beautiful man he was. He spent the last five years of his life in a motorized wheelchair and ultimately went off dialysis and into hospice to define his own end.

    You are a beautiful person and your heroics are a marvel. Thanks and best wishes.

  • Anonymous says:

    What an incredible young woman! Kirstie Ennis you are now officially my hero! Thank you for inspiring me to be better too. Keep going!!!

  • Mary Alyce Owens says:

    Proof we are not our bodies…we are all so much more. A true warrior woman! I salute you from my heart where I wish you love, joy, peace, good health and ease of heart with whatever life may bring your way..

  • Leesa says:

    Beautiful – inside and out. You are an inspiration.

  • Anonymous says:

    God Bless you KirstieEnnis.

    Don Rowe(former Major/aviator, USMC.

  • Gwynie Parry says:

    Beautiful, brave, bad ass Kirstie. Still watching your story from Sedbergh; you look amazing…xx

  • Your story inspires me to keep strong through all, in remission from cancer, fighting lupus, many scars from surgeries on my body, for the first time in many years I will wear a swim suit and show them off. I’m happy to be alive

  • Shakeel says:

    Hi..friend

  • Robin says:

    Beautiful story, for a beautiful athlete.

  • Barbara Coleman says:

    She is AMAZING. More amazing than I (her aunt) could ever be. I love you Kirstie Marie

  • Mary Milhone of Wednesday Warfighters says:

    Kirstie Marie Ennis… You are my hero. Not only do I admire, look up to, honor and respect you, but so does the world. You’ve seen my pages with millions of people keeping up with your story, sending you well wishes, sharing their own stories and sending you love. You’ve shined so much light in this dark world with your story / journey. Thank you for that. Thank you for your service in the military and your service that continues in people’s everyday lives. You inspire others not to give up or become a statistic. You are an Angel but I think to humble to realize that. Just know that you are a life changer, for so many. A life changer for the better. Thank you for being you doll. We love you. <3 God Bless You Always!!!

  • Wonderful story of another hero!

    I invite Zoe to have a follow-up story conversation with us at EvolutionaryHealer.com.

    We have a new process that PTSD, MST, and Suicide Ideation without counseling or therapy or meds.

    Repetitive Behavior Cellular Regression ( CR ) is a non-medical question and answer sequence that helps our clients all over the world.

    Our Earthwind Academy is focused on Veterans and their families successfully stopping repetitive behaviors from spreading through the family from the primary person with PTSD.

  • I can’t even imagine the terror she went through, from crash to possibly loosing more of her leg. She’s a true warrior in every sense of the word. She could’ve fell into a deep dark hole of depression or rise to the occasion. She rose to the occasion and proved to all that you can fight and win. My hat off to you Kirstie. Your an inspiration to us all.

  • HM says:

    Kristie. Outstanding! I’m sending your story to my daughter who just joined the Army.

    Thank you for been an outstanding example of courage and determination.

    MSG Murati

  • Hey Guys,

    Fantastic post and very inspiring – We have shared this with our audience today via our weekly newsletter and will be discussing Kirstie’s story on The Fitness Blogger podcast.

    James AKA The Fitness Blogger

  • HEORES AMONG US
    I love this powerful and positive message with love and healing. Thank you for sharing Kirstie’s story. She is the epitome of a Hero. Heroes are among us every day in both the military and civilian life. God Bless Kirstie and all who serve!

  • Mark says:

    Kirstie you are a truly an amazing woman and special person with you determination and positive outlook on life you can change the world about how people see people for who they truly are and not be judged by how they look

  • Derek says:

    Amazing story!! Love your motivation and will power!! Not an easy thing to do deal with. You are a very strong woman and pushed through a very tough time in your life! Keep being you and inspiring the world!! Your awesome!

  • Daryl Beaudoin says:

    Semper Fi Sister.

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