When people think of ESPN Magazine’s “The Body” issue, they usually think of perfectly sculpted bodies of multi-million dollar athletes. This year, the magazine went with another type of perfect body to grace their cover, that of a wounded Marine veteran turned mountain climber and competitive snowboarder named Kirstie Ennis.
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Ennis lost her leg in a helicopter crash during her second deployment to Afghanistan as a door gunner. Ennis enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school at age 17.
Since losing her leg and undergoing several surgeries and a massive amount of physical therapy, Ennis has kept on living an adventurous life, taking up competitive snowboarding as well as mountain climbing. She also got involved in charity work for wounded veterans and it was through that work she met Prince Harry of Wales.
During the event, Henry, a veteran himself, complained of knee pain. Ennis looked over at him and said, “That’s f***ing cute. Really?” The pair were fast friends after that.
Ennis is currently a hopeful for the 2018 Paralympic Games representing the United States in snowboarding after winning the 2015 USASA National Championship.
She’s also a series mountaineer. She plans to climb the Seven Summits and is already the first above-the-knee amputee to ever summit Mount Kilimanjaro.
Ennis posted the following on her Instagram account after finding out she was selected to be on the cover of the issue:
When @espn asked me to be apart of their #BodyIssue, I was honored. When I found out I made the cover, I actually cried. Initially, I was reluctant to make myself so vulnerable by sharing my story and taking the photos. People tell me I’m strong quite often, but really Im strong because of the people around me. This ones for every man, woman, or child facing some sort of adversity. You control your circumstances, they don’t control you. Find your passion, and let it consume you. If a little one legged lady can climb rocks and chase mountains, I promise you, you can do whatever it is your heart desires. Thank you to everyone involved! #climbing #climbon #leftlegless On a lighter note, if you don’t like butt cracks or tattoos, don’t look!
“In the military and in sports, you but your body through hell,” she said. “You push the limits and you break any expectation you had of yourself. They break you down and reshape you. I don’t think someone who’s not an athlete, active duty, or a veteran would ever understand. It’s not just a physical process; it’s mental and emotional. Whether you’re on a team playing a sport 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.”
“It’s been a long, hard road… but I’m confident and comfortable in the skin I’m in now,” she added. “I made it home alive. There are a lot of men and women who didn’t. I am living, breathing, walking, all to honor them.”
(H/T For God And Country)