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Wounded warrior Kirstie Ennis is on a mission to conquer Mount Everest
MILTON, Fla. — Time and again Kirstie Ennis has gone to the extreme to "redefine what it means to be disabled," as the 28-year-old, above-the-knee amputee describes her purpose.
Next weekend, Ennis will begin her next mountain climb — Mount Everest.
While taking on the tallest mountain in the world is daunting enough, Ennis will attempt to scale the 29,029-foot-tall mountain on a prosthetic leg.
After graduating from Milton High with a dual-enrollment degree from then-Pensacola Junior College, Ennis followed her parents' footsteps — both Marines — and enlisted at 17 years old. Four years later in Afghanistan, while on a mission as a helicopter gunner to pick up Marines in an active combat zone, Ennis' helicopter crashed without warning. She suffered damage to her jaw and enough to her left leg to need an amputation, first below her knee then later above the knee.
Thursday, Ennis drove from her home in Aspen, Colorado, to fly to Los Angeles. Saturday, her flight left for Nepal where she and her team will meet up with seven Sherpas — Tibetans who also serve as Mount Everest guides — and from base camp it's off for a six- to eight-week trek to the mountain's summit and back.
Two years ago, Ennis visited Mt. Everest base camp to collect logistics for this trip, but she said she's been training for more than three years since her thousand-mile trek throughout England, Scotland and Wales as part of Walking with the Wounded in 2015. On that trip, she befriended Prince Harry, who joined her group along the way.
Since then she decided to attempt to scale the Seven Summits — the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.
If she reaches the summit, Everest will be her fifth of the Seven Summits.
Since 2017, Ennis has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Carstensz in Indonesia, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Aconcagua in Argentina. In addition to Everest, that leaves her with Mount McKinley in the U.S. and Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
"They're all building blocks," she said, "all different climbs ... trial and error."
Many people may not know that coming down the mountain is more dangerous than going up.
"Most people die on the way down," Ennis said. "They get summit fever. They put the cart before the horse and don't save their energy."
Because of her prosthetic, Ennis has special concerns for facing Everest.
"My biggest fear is frostbite on my residual limb," she said, "The carbon fiber socket transmits cold super quick. It can get brutal."
With so little of her left leg remaining, she said she'll have to be proactive and cautious in the snow.
Ennis' previous Seven Summit climbs, as well as her Walking with the Wounded trek, have been in support of nonprofit organizations: the Walking with the Wounded, The Waterboys, The Heroes Project and Building Homes for Heroes. For Everest, Ennis will be climbing for her own nonprofit, the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which earned its 501c3 status in October.
As merely an individual looking to raise awareness for organizations by climbing, Ennis said finding sponsors could be difficult.
"(Starting the foundation) legitimized my efforts," she said.
She noted corporations tended to not donate to her efforts because without the 501c3 designation, they wouldn't receive a tax break. Since earning the status in October, Ennis said her foundation of four board members has received $35,000 in support.
"For a nobody nonprofit, (that) feels awesome," she said.
In addition to raising money for other organizations, Ennis said her foundation gives support to training in the outdoors. In February, her foundation fullly funded veteran David Rendon's trip with her to summit Aconcagua (22,841 feet) — the second highest of the Seven Summits.
On her blog, kirstieennisfoundation.com, Ennis said she met Rendon through the nonprofit MVP in LA, an organization that helps veterans transition to civilian life, through a 30-minute workout and over an hour of group sharing in what it calls "the huddle."
On her blog chronicling the climb of Aconcagua, Ennis said it was about what she could give her fellow veteran and that the climb wasn't the most important thing.
"It was David's experience that would impact me the most," she wrote.
Her foundation was also able to donate $10,000 to MVP through the climb.
Her goals don't end with Mount Everest. By the end of 2021, she hopes to have completed the Seven Summits, swim the English Channel, run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days and bike the Great Divide Ride (3,084-mile off-road cycling tour).
To follow Ennis' progress, go to www.kirstieennisfoundation.com and click on "blog."
©2019 Crestview News Bulletin, Fla.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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Jason Brown, also known as "Abdul Ja'Me," allegedly gave $500 on three separate occasions in 2019 to a confidential informant Brown believed would then wire it to an ISIS fighter engaged in combat in Syria. The purported ISIS fighter was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, according to a DoJ news release.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
Sen. Rick Scott is backing a bipartisan bill that would allow service members to essentially sue the United States government for medical malpractice if they are injured in the care of military doctors.
The measure has already passed the House and it has been introduced in the Senate, where Scott says he will sign on as a co-sponsor.
"As a U.S. Senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, taking care of our military members, veterans and their families is my top priority," the Florida Republican said in a statement.