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CMU Student Veterans bring world-famous athlete to CMU

SVA, Veterans Services partners and sponsors celebrate All Service Ball with Kirstie Ennis

There are more than 400 student veterans at CMU from all branches of the United States military. The Student Veterans Association at CMU recently made a national impact working with elected leaders to improve federal policy towards student veterans. Next month, the SVA will continue making a difference joining military leaders, law enforcement and first responders bringing athlete and veteran Kirstie Ennis to CMU.

Kirstie Ennis is a former United States Marine Corps helicopter door gunner. Her story is unique. As an amputee, Ennis is a seven summits mountain climber, a Paralympic snowboarder and a national speaker and advocate for veterans. Ennis also served in the United States Marine Corps as an aircraft mechanic.

During service in Afghanistan Ennis sacrificed her leg after a Marine Corps helicopter went down in Afghanistan. After more than 40 surgeries — and a life-threatening infection — the former Marine Sergeant has still accomplished more at 28 years old than many people achieve in a lifetime.

Braydon Gear, president of CMU's Student Veterans Association, was pleased to announce the keynote speaker and explained that her approach to life after military service provides an important message to the CMU veteran community.

“All service members make a sacrifice,” said Gear. “While not all sacrifices are as visible all sacrifices have lasting impacts. That is why we are tireless when it comes to expanding services, building respect for veterans' service and strengthening the campus community for veterans. The All Service Ball and the presence of Ennis will help us achieve these goals.”

Ennis’ story has been well-documented by the national media. Cosmopolitan Magazine features her in a short film about her ordeal. She was also featured on the cover of ESPN magazine. The resilience of Ennis was acknowledged by England’s Prince Harry as they embraced following her 1,000-mile walk across England. For this accomplishment, she was honored by People Magazine in 2016.

“Ennis is destroying the destructive stereotype of the past in terms of what it means to be a veteran and a 'disabled athlete,'" said Student Veteran’s Benefits and Service Coordinator Amanda Herron. “This is an important message to anyone in our community, veteran or not, who wants to be defined who they are — not by what they lack.”

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Marine Veteran Kristie Ennis

As a Paralympic snowboarder Ennis ventured into mountaineering and summited Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro supporting the non-profit The Waterboys. She went on to successfully climb Carstensz, the highest point in Oceania, for The Heroes Project. Following her Oceania feat, Ennis then conquered Iliniza Norte, a 16,818-foot peak in Ecuador. Denali and Everest are also on her list of summit attempts and her goal is to complete the Seven Summits by climbing the highest peak on each continent by 2021.

Local veterans and community members are encouraged to attend. The event is made possible by Colorado Federal Credit Union, J&A Service, FCI Constructors, Encore Electric, Home Loan Insurance, Zack of Diamonds Jewelry Co. and BL Realty.

Student veterans looking for support or seeking ways to give back to other veterans are encouraged to contact CMU’s Veterans Services Coordinator at aherron@coloradomesa.edu.

Attendees may learn more about Kirstie Ennis by visiting the Kirstie Ennis Foundation. Tickets to the All Service Ball area availbale for purchase.

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Written by David Ludlam