The Pat Tillman Award will go to Kirstie Ennis at the 2019 ESPY Awards on July 10, 2019, according to a news release.
“Pat lived his life with passion and conviction, driving forward in the face of any obstacle that crossed his path,” Board Chair and Co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation Marie Tillman said in the release. “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.”
According to his foundation, Tillman left a successful NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. military with his brother Kevin after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The brothers served tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004.
Pat’s unit was reportedly ambushed as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Tillman tried heroicly to provide cover for his fellow soldiers, however, the attack led to his death.
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 served others in a way that echoes his legacy.”
“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 for the Pat Tillman Foundation. “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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Kirstie’s Leg Was Amputated After An Aircaft Crash in 2012
“Only 1 PM and it’s already been A DAY thanks to travel, but I made it to LA,” Ennis wrote on Instagram. “My nerves have finally kicked in for my speech at the #ESPYs. Such an honor to receive the Pat Tillman Award! Thank you to the Tillman Family, @pattillmanfnd, and to everyone who has supported me! Be sure to tune in July 10th on ABC! #leftlegless”
According to the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, Ennis served as a door gunner and CH-53 Helicopter Mechanic in the US Marine Corps. Enniss’ aircraft crashed during combat operations in Afghanistan 2012 and she was critically injured, which led to full thickness facial trauma, spinal injuries, a traumatic brain injury, shoulder injuries, and a left leg amputation.
Rather than letting the accident determine her future, Ennis reportedly dedicated herself to exceeding expectations, working as a stuntwoman in major motion pictures, a veterans’ advocate, and as an adaptive extreme athlete.
Kirstie Established the Kirstie Ennis Foundation
“Boarding my flight to LA — and my nerves have finally kicked in for my speech at the #ESPYs,” Ennis wrote on Twitter. “Such an honor to receive the Pat Tillman Award! Thank you to the Tillman family and to everyone who has supported me!”
In addition to exceeding expectations, Ennis also dedicated her life to serving others as she did during her time in the military by establishing the Kirstie Ennis Foundation.
According to its mission statement, the foundation was “founded to financially support deserving organizations that are dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals and families.” The foundation strives to provide education, opportunity, and healing in the outdoors.
In addition to her foundation, Ennis is also a spokesperson for the nonprofit organization Building Homes for Heroes, which provides adapted mortgage-free homes to critically injured veterans. Ennis is also a board member for the non-profits Merging Vets and Players and Glam4Good.