Kirstie Ennis: A Valiant Heroine

June 22 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: The Merit of Never Giving Up

The best cure for a pity party is to listen to a story of how someone has it far harder than you. Hearing about how another person prevailed in the face of adversity inspires us to sweep all the negativity away and find gratitude.

Today, think about that one area of your life that has you down. Maybe it’s something you’ve done or where you live or what you do. Whatever it is, find one single positive thing that counterbalances the bad juju.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: The First Time Ever

Even though women can now be astronauts and firefighters and pursue whatever awesome careers we want, it’s been slow as molasses to get equality when it comes to the military.

Currently, women make up only 15.3 percent of active-duty personnel in the military, and 20 of the available 336 Marine jobs are still closed to women.

But for the first time ever, the U.S. Army has permanently opened the Ranger School to women following the graduation of two female soldiers last fall. The school is described as one of the hardest training courses Army officers and soldiers can volunteer for, and it helps train them for intense combat. Let’s just say your Saturday-morning exercise boot camp’s got nothing on this program.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Sergeant Kirstie Ennis, USMC Aerial Gunner

Sergeant Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the Marines in 2008, when she was only 17 years old. Four years later, she nearly died while serving her country. Kirstie was flying in a helicopter in Afghanistan when it crash landed, smashing to pieces. She says she woke to the sounds of screams.

Kirstie’s jaw shattered, and her face suffered severe lacerations. The cervical discs in her spine were injured, she tore her rotator cuff and labrum, and she suffered from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The impact of the crash also broke her left ankle, resulting in extreme leg damage that led to doctors having to amputate her left leg below the knee.

While enduring nearly 40 surgeries in several different countries, Kirstie had to learn how to walk and talk again. If there’s one word to describe Kirstie, it’s resilience. Not only did she overcome her injuries, she has taken on new challenges, like going back to school and snowboarding at the competitive level.

The nonprofit Disabled Sports USA, which provides people living with disabilities chances to play adaptive sports, asked Kirstie if she wanted to try adaptive snowboarding, and she was pretty psyched about it. According to the International Paralympic Committee, she’s ranked fifth in the world—yep, the whole world—in women’s snowboard cross. She also received three gold medals in swimming at the 2013 Warrior Games, and has completed an Ironman and several triathlons. You go, girl!

Last summer, this valiant lady participated in Walking With the Wounded’s Walk of Britain, trekking for 72 days with five other veterans, from Scotland to Buckingham Palace. During the 1,000-mile journey, Kirstie placed a commemorative, engraved dog tag along the route every 40 miles to honor 25 of her fallen U.S. veteran comrades.

This year, The Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization started in 2006 that builds or modifies homes and gifts them, mortgage-free, to veterans and their families, is providing Kirstie with a home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s just a small token of thanks, and one this tough fighter more than deserves.

Kirstie isn’t just a brave veteran and victorious athlete; she’s also a model for girls and women everywhere to never, ever give up.


With Kirstie Ennis in mind, I’ll leave you today with these words by novelist Tom Clancy:

“The U.S. Military is us. There is no truer representation of a country than the people that it sends into the field to fight for it. The people who wear our uniform and carry our rifles into combat are our kids, and our job is to support them because they’re protecting us.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

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