Military Culture

Marine Corps veteran and amputee to receive Pat Tillman Award for Service at Wednesday’s ESPY Awards

Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis already has quite the impressive resume.

The prior Marine sergeant has been attempting to climb and summit the tallest peaks on each continent. In 2015 she walked across Britain — with some help from Prince Harry. She has swam and won three gold medals in the Warrior Games. She’s a snowboarding Paralympic hopeful. She was nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets’ first female amputee model ― and has started a successful nonprofit of her own.

And, she did it all with one leg.

Now, she will have the Pat Tillman Award for Service, given at Wednesday night’s ESPY Awards, to add to her collection of accolades.

Marine becomes first female amputee to grace annual Pin-Ups For Vets calendar

Kirstie Ennis said she suffered low self-esteem after she was was injured in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan and later had her leg amputated. But a recent shoot for an annual calendar has turned that around. (Ben Murray/Staff)

The former Marine door gunner and airframes ­mechanic lost her left leg in 2012 on her second Afghanistan deployment when the CH-53D she was flying in went down.

She suffered severe trauma, especially to her brain, spine, neck, shoulder, face and left leg, which after some 40 surgeries was amputated below the knee three years later. A month after that, it was amputated above the knee.

As part of her recovery, Ennis turned to sports. She also founded the Kirstie Ennis Foundation to help “provide education and opportunity in the outdoors” and support other nonprofits helping to improve the lives of others, according to a news release.

“After being medically retired from the Marine Corps due to my injuries sustained overseas, I have dedicated my life to serving others in a different way,” Ennis said in the news release. “To receive the Pat Tillman Award and to be associated with a true American hero is a tremendous honor.”

Pat Tillman was an NFL football player who left his professional sports career in 2002 in the aftermath of 9/11 to enlist in the Army.

The 27-year-old Army Ranger was killed in a friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan in 2004. The Pat Tillman Award for Service was established in 2014 to commemorate his legacy “and honor an individual with a strong connection to sports who has a served others in a way that echoes his legacy,” according to a news release.

“Pat lived his life with passion and conviction, driving forward in the fact of any obstacle that crossed his path,” Tillman’s widow, Marie, board chairwoman and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, said in a news release. “I see that same drive and courage in Kirstie as she continues to push the limits and achieve her best.”

The ESPY Awards ― which stand for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award ― air Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

Past winners include Purple Heart recipient and U.S. Paralympic gold medal sled hockey player Josh Sweeney; Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient and Notre Dame basketball player Danielle Green; prior Army sergeant and Paralympic swimming gold medalist Elizabeth Marks, among others.

Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Times. On Twitter: _andreascott.

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