“Snowboarding saved my life,” says Sergeant Kirstie Ennis, a veteran of two deployments to Afghanistan. “Being a part of Team Semper Fi changed my life for the better. The love and support that comes from TSF keeps me and many others going. TSF is family.”
Kirstie enlisted in the Marines two months after her 17th birthday and became a door gunner and a mechanic. “Typically, I would fly one day, repair helicopters the next,” she explains. “We did missions like insertions, extractions, drug raids and combat resupplies. When I was not flying, I was doing hydraulic and structural repair on the helicopters.”
On June 23, 2012, the helicopter she was in as part of a resupply mission went nose up and rolled left. Tethered by her gunner’s belt to the left side of the aircraft, Kirstie was in the worst spot to be in when the helicopter crashed.
“The right side of my face was shattered and my teeth were crumbled. My left leg hurt and I couldn’t really feel anything on my right side.” Kirstie has had 38 procedures due to the injuries she sustained in the crash. Most of these were facial reconstruction, but she also had significant work done on her leg and arm.
“The Semper Fi Fund reached out to help my family when I was first wounded,” she recalls. “They helped them with food and gas cards, they’ve helped with my recreational therapy and also with my transition out of the military.”
Perhaps the greatest help Kirstie received, though, was becoming part of Team Semper Fi. “I’ve been able to meet some of the most amazing people through TSF,” she says, “and it’s all because they truly care about the athletes. I would not be where I am now without TSF.”
As part of her recovery, Kirstie has become an active member of Team Semper Fi. She has placed a number of times in para boarder-cross at World Cup and USASA events around the world. She’s aiming for the winners’ podium at the 2018 Winter Olympics/Paralympics in South Korea.
“Every day makes me excited,” Kirstie says. “The challenges I deal with are of a unique sort, but I know I have been through worse and I make sure to remind myself of that. I joined the Marine Corps for the challenge. Since I can no longer be a Marine, I need something to challenge me. When I meet a challenge, I just take it full on with a smile—because it reminds me I’m still alive.”
“What happened to me changed my perspective on life completely,” Kirstie says. “I know we are not guaranteed tomorrow. I know that everything can change in the blink of an eye. But I also know that there are still good people in the world like those at SFF and TSF. That there’s never a reason to give up.”