Kirstie Ennis’ story may have begun when she lost her leg after her helicopter went down in Afghanistan, but it certainly doesn’t end there. After more than 40 surgeries and the amputation of her leg first below and then above the knee after a life-threatening infection, the former Marine sergeant has already accomplished more than most people have in their lifetimes.

Ennis joined the Marines when she was only 17 years old and enlisted as an aircraft mechanic, inspired by her parents who were both Marines. Despite everything she’s been through, it’s inspired her to push even harder, not only for herself but to inspire others.

Ennis has turned the concept of “disabled athlete” on its head, proving how capable she still is, whether it’s on one leg or two. She competed in boardercross and banked slalom as a Paralympic snowboarder and then ventured into mountaineering, setting out to climb the Seven Summits (the highest points on each continent) while fundraising and raising awareness for a variety of causes. She summited Mt. Kilimanjaro (at 19,341 feet it’s the highest point in Africa) to support the non-profit The Waterboys. Then she successfully climbed Carstensz, the highest point in Oceania, for The Heroes Project; tackled Elbrus, the highest point in Europe to support GLAM4GOOD; and then conquered Aconcagua, the highest point in South America at 22,841 feet. She has summited Cotopaxi, the highest peak in Ecuador, and got turned around by weather while on Denali in support of Building Homes for Heroes but later summited it in 2021.

In 2022, she reached the summit of Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica. Ennis made it to the South Summit of Mt. Everest in 2019, and though extreme conditions prevented her from summiting on her 2023 expedition, she’s planning her future return.

What people might not know about Ennis: she’s completed three Master’s degrees (Human Behavior, Business Administration and Public Administration) and is currently working to complete her doctorate in Education. She’s in the process of training to become an aerial firefighter. She is the founder of The Kirstie Ennis Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides therapeutic climbing clinics for disabled, veteran and minority communities and sponsors mobility-based equipment both locally and across the globe. She is an ambassador for the nonprofit Building Homes for Heroes and sits on the board of Merging Vets and Players. She worked as a stuntwoman on Patriots Day starring Mark Wahlberg in 2016. She’s an entrepreneur and businesswoman who opened her first business, the Chapter One Hair and Body Lab, in Oceanside, California in 2017, followed by her second business, Citizen Crossfit. She earned her license as a real estate advisor and is based at Engel & Volkers in Aspen, Colorado.

After returning home from Everest in the summer of 2019, Ennis was the ESPY’s Pat Tillman Award recipient. In 2020, she was the recipient of the “Higher Ground” award at the Salute to Greatness Awards, held by the Martin Luther King Jr. family. She is also the youngest inductee ever into the International Sports Hall of Fame.

Ennis’ story has been well documented, from being featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s “Body” issue and in People magazine, to appearing on Tamron Hall and being featured in a Sports Emmy nominated segment on HBO’s Real Sports.

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