Wounded Warrior Kirstie Ennis Kicks Ass As The First Vet To Grace The Cover Of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue

Health & Fitness
Marine Sgt. Kirstie Ennis was critically injured during a helicopter crash in Afghanistan while serving as a door gunner on June 23, 2012.
Photo via The Veterans Project

Marine veteran, mountain climber, amputee athlete, and all-around badass Kirstie Ennis recently made the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue, the first veteran to grace its cover. The yearly spread features nude and semi-nude photos of male and female athletes from all sports and vocations, both on and off the field, as a testament to the perseverance of both the human body and will — something Ennis captures perfectly.


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! 😉

A post shared by Kirstie Ennis (@kirstie_ennis) on

"Find your passion, and let it consume you,” Ennis wrote on Instagram, where she posted a photo of the new cover on June 30 . “If a little one-legged lady can climb rocks and chase mountains, I promise you, you can do whatever it is your heart desires.”

For Ennis, her decision to pose for the magazine came down to one thing: Don’t set any limits for yourself.

“I really thought about it and thought about the demographic and the people that would see it and I really realized that it wasn’t about me anymore,”  she told People magazine. “Any man, woman, or child facing some sort of adversity has a potential to be inspired by these pictures and seeing somebody who only has been missing their leg for a few years go out and do things that she wasn’t doing with two legs.”

Related: Stand And Deliver: That ‘One Leg Monster’ On War, Pain, And Powerlifting »

On June 23, 2012, Ennis was critically injured in a helicopter crash while serving as an aerial door gunner in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, suffering a traumatic brain injury that resulted in memory loss, as well as severe damage to her face, spine, left leg and shoulders.

“I was kind of ripped apart,” Ennis said of her injuries in a previous interview with The Veterans Project. “The last thing I remember was the screaming I heard. I was kind of in-and-out from there. My leg was mangled and snapped, my right shoulder was destroyed, I could fit my fist through my face and my jaw was completely destroyed. … From that moment on, I was just fighting to stay awake.”

After years of surgeries and physical rehabilitation, Ennis’ left leg was amputated below the knee in November 2015, but an infection resulted in a second amputation above the knee. A lifelong athlete, Ennis returned to sports as part of her recovery, competing in the 2016 Invictus Games and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this past April, and is believed to be one of the first female above-the-knee amputee to do so.

“It’s the six inches between your ears and what’s behind your ribcage that really makes the difference,” Ennis said in her interview with ESPN. “Forty-four surgeries, years of therapies, years of learning how to use my brain and body again, but I’ve yet to let it beat me down.”

WATCH NEXT:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Kirstie Ennis received a Purple Heart. (Updated 7/4/17, 12:01 a.m. EST).

Soldiers from the 1-118th Field Artillery Regiment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in Southern Afghanistan, June 10th, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jordan Trent)

Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)

Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.

Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.

Read More
Audie Murphy (U.S. Army photo)

Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018

On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.

Read More
A Purple Heart (DoD photo)

Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Read More
Ships from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 transit the Pacific Ocean Jan. 22, 2020. DESRON 23, part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erick A. Parsons)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Navy and Marine Corps need to be a bit more short-sighted when assessing how many ships they need, the acting Navy secretary said this week.

The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.

"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.

The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.

Read More
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Oscar Temores and his family. (GoFundMe)

When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.

Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.

"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."

That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.

Read More