On June 23, 2012, Kirstie Ennis was critically injured in a helicopter crash while serving as an aerial door gunner in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Just six years into her planned 20 year career, the young Marine suffered a traumatic brain injury and severe damage to her face, spine, left leg and shoulders.
The wounded warrior got a personal boost on September 16 when she received the keys to a custom-built home in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
“That area has everything that someone like me would be interested in: mountaineering, hunting, kayaking, and snowboarding,” Ennis
A lifelong athlete, Ennis completed Prince Harry’s Walking with the Wounded charity event, where she and a group of fellow veterans walked 1,000 miles, starting in Northern Scotland, stopping in Wales, and finishing in London.
Ennis also competed in the 2016 Invictus Games, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro this past April, one of the first female above-the-knee amputees to ever do so. Another first for Ennis was when she made the cover of ESPN Magazine’s annual Body Issue, the first veteran to grace its cover.
The home was given to Ennis by non-profit Building Homes For Heroes, who receives donated homes from Chase Bank and either renovates them for injured veterans in need or builds them from scratch. Building Homes for Heroes gifts roughly 30 mortgage-free homes each year to wounded post-9/11 veterans.
“There’s a lot of financial stability of having this home will set me up for the rest of my life, by providing the framework to have the career I want, but also be able to build off of that and do the extra things, like having a family,” said Ennis.
Not only is the entire house wheelchair accessible, it also comes furnished with top-of-the-line kitchen appliances so that Ennis can continue to perform her indoor passion, which is baking.
“One of the things people misunderstand about veterans going through recovery is [the notion] that they want pity — but all they want is opportunity,” Ennis said. “These homes are providing exactly that: opportunity.”
Ennis is looking forward to her next challenge, the 2018 paralympics.