Former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Kirstie Ennis, an athlete for most her life before suffering severe injuries in a helicopter crash while on active duty in Afghanistan, will be presented with the Pat Tillman Award for Service during The 2019 ESPYS, it was announced Tuesday.
Ennis has had more than a dozen surgeries, including amputation of her left leg above the knee, after suffering facial trauma, a traumatic brain injury, cervical and lumbar spine trauma, and bilateral shoulder damage in the 2012 crash. Turning to sports during her recovery, Ennis created the Kirstie Ennis Foundation to provide education and opportunity in the outdoors and to support other nonprofits dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals and families.
"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 a statement. "To receive the Pat Tillman Award and to be associated with a true American hero is a tremendous honor. It has taken a village to get me to this point in my life, and I would not be where I am now without the amazing people surrounding me. To me, this is a symbol of community and what it means to pay it forward."
During her recovery, Ennis, who appeared in ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue in 2017, has won three gold medals in swimming at the Warrior Games, walked 1,000 miles across Britain, and has reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Carstensz, Mount Elbrus and Aconcagua in her attempt to become the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit all seven of the world's highest peaks. Her team's most recent attempt to climb Mount Everest came within 200 meters of the summit when they had to turn back due to life-threatening conditions.
"Pat lived his life with passion and conviction, driving forward in the face of any obstacle that crossed his path," Marie Tillman of the Pat Tillman Foundation said in a statement. "I see that same drive and courage in Kirstie as she continues to push the limits and achieve her best. We are proud to present the Tillman Award to Sgt. Kirstie Ennis for her service and leadership."
The award is named after former NFL linebacker and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who died during active service in Afghanistan after he returned to the military following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The ESPYS will be aired live on July 10 on ABC.