Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Kirstie Ennis in the Fish Bowl with Chris Long (E2) | Chalk Media

Kirstie Ennis in the Fish Bowl with Chris Long (E2) | Chalk Media

– Thanks for tuning in for part two of our Kirstie Ennis sit down interview. This one is gonna be
hard to watch at times, but, you know, everything from the helicopter crash to the recovery to what that perseverance has
allowed her to become today. The lows made her who she is,
and you’ll want to hear this. (upbeat tune) First off, you joined the
military at 17, which to me, to have the wherewithal to
make that decision at 17 is, you’re either more
mature or more convicted than somebody else, or you just want out of your fucking house. (laughing) Which one was it? Was it a combination, and what drove that? – It was a combination for sure. So I will be like
transparent in all of this. I was a terrible child, just mischievous, like a total asshole to my parents. But, you know, I was raised
my two Marines, you know. My mom and dad got married at 18. Dad joined the Marine
Corps right off the bat. You know, I cam along a
few years down the road, and actually at 27 years old, my mom came home and
told my dad, you know, I think these female
Marines are pretty badass. And dad looked at my mom and said, “I will never be married
to a female Marine.” So my mom said, “Watch this,”
turned around and left, got made went and immediately
and joined the Marine Corps. And so. (laughs) – Your family is the
ultimate one up family. It’s like, it’s just like,
“Oh, I can’t do that? “Fuck you, I’m gonna do it.” That’s insane. – Yep, pretty much, and so like, I, like, my earliest memory is watching
my mom graduate boot camp. And I just idolized them for it. I thought it was just the coolest thing that, you know, my parents
were these super heroes that got up at four o’clock in the morning to go essentially protect people that couldn’t protect themselves. And so I knew early on
that I wanted to, you know, to follow in their footsteps, so to speak. And I just joined a lot sooner
than I was anticipating. I was done with high school by
15, did two years of college, and four months after my 17th birthday, I just kept getting into
trouble, and so, at the time, I just like put the pieces together. It’s like, you want to join
the Marines, so time to go now. – What’s getting grounded
like in your house? What do? Like you know, because
most people have to deal with one Marine parent, or you know, or somebody with a military background. That’s bad enough. My dad played 13 years in
the NFL, big imposing guy. He’s got a flat top. He looks like he could be in
the military, and it sucks. Like, what was getting
disciplined in your house like? – So I mean, you know
what, I did get grounded, like the typical, you’re
gonna get your phone or your TV or whatever taken away, but my mom was good. Like if I, if I snuck out and came home and she could tell that I was hungover, she just wouldn’t let me sleep, and she’d make me do like the
worst things like, go pull– – Which is good for your hangover. – [Kirstie] Absolutely. (laughs) – So, it’s kind of, it’s kind of backwards ’cause by noon you feel better. I’m like–
– [Kirstie] Thanks, mom. – I’ve been raking leaves and sweating. – Yeah, no, she’d just like,
she’d put me through hell, like every little thing. And it was just always like
obscure, obscure things, or like if she know I was
drunk when I came home, she’d make me drink more. I’m like, that’s the last thing
I want to do, that’s rude. – That’s like the carton
of cigarettes, you know, we’re gonna smoke this whole carton. I didn’t get caught a lot. (laughing) When I did, I got, I was
once grounded for six months, but I got out on parole. It’s tough when, when you’ve got, when you’ve got hard-ass parents, and I feel like it makes you better. Like one day when you have kids, like, are you gonna be the hard-ass parent, or are you gonna be like the chill parent? Because you seem pretty chill,
but you have that background where you could be a bad-ass. – Yeah, oh, no, I go, yeah,
zero to a hundred real quick. So I like to think if I ever had kids, I’m definitely gonna be hard on ’em. – Oh, I would call child
services on your ass in a split second.
(laughing) I would blow up your spot, yeah. – Noted. (laughing) – Did you miss anything, like, you know, like joining that early? Like you went to college early, but like, do you feel like you missed out on things like spring
break or like prom, or? – Yeah, I mean, I mean, so even like in relation to whether
it’s the NFL or NBA, NHL, like it’s hard for me to fathom that some of these kids
are like doing college and going straight into, you
know, being a pro athlete. Like I can’t fathom that, because when I was 21, 22
sitting in Afghanistan, and you know, I like, I’ve
done a lot with, you know, a bunch of the franch
sports teams at this point, and I just, I cannot put
myself in their shoes. Like, two totally different walks of life. And I do, like I don’t regret anything about military service or how
I went about it, you know, the things that I did,
accomplished, failed at even. But I do, like sometimes I wonder like what it would have been like
if, you know, if I’d said, “All right, well, let’s finish
the last two years of college “and then go in as an officer
or something like that.” But no.
– You can’t, you can’t recreate beach
week in Afghanistan. – No. (laughs) – [Chris] That would suck. – Yeah. (laughs) – [Chris] There’s no water is there? – No, absolutely not. – You know, fast forwarding
to, you know, what’s kind of to me made you so
impressive is the obstacle you had to overcome when 2012, the crash. You know, take me through what happened, and what do you remember about it? – Yeah, so just, my deployments,
I’m single, not married, loved going overseas. I was doing back to back deployment, so I was only home for like four months in between going to
Afghanistan, coming home, and then going back in 2012. That deployment was night and
day compared to my first one. I was, the things that I was doing as a helicopter door gunner
were just a little more intense. A lot, my missions were far more hands on than they were then, you know, my first time going over there. And, yeah, June 23rd 2012, it just, it was any other day and
any other mission, really. It’s weird to talk about, because I knew something bad
was gonna happen that day. Like you just, you just, you feel it. And on January 19th, we
had a helicopter go down that actually killed all six crew members, and their call sign that
night was Iron Tail 06. In their memory, in their honor, we painted a helicopter
that said, you know, “We will never forget Iron Tail 06.” And then there was the landing gear door, all of the 50 cowls were
painted for them, you know. Everybody’s names were just
everywhere, all over this bird. And it was our memorial helicopter. And so on June 23rd, I’m
obviously on the flight schedule, and then my chief warrant
officer comes up and he says, “Hey, you’re going out. “Like go ahead, and you know,
start turning up the bird.” Well, I go to run out to my
aircraft, which was zero one, and he snatches me up and says, “No, you’re going out on zero six.” And it was this weird, pitting feeling. It just wasn’t right. But we turned up the birds
in the middle of the day, which is pretty rare. Normally, we like to fly, obviously, late at night, early morning hours so the enemy can’t see
you and at least track you or figure out what you’re,
what you have going on. And then they come to me, and they tell my that my
call sign’s Legacy 07. And, again, treated it like any other day, gun run, you know, we go out and do our first
little segment of the mission, come back to the fuel pits, fuel up, and then when we go outbound to a forward operating base called Nowzad. And from there we were meant to be going to another base called Musa Qala, which we were going to do an
extraction of some Marines that needed some help. And we made it right outside of, there’s an AMP post and then the FOB that we were trying to get to, and unfortunately, we
just never landed safely. The last thing I remember is the pilot coming over
commms. and saying saying, you know, we’re making
inputs on the aircraft and we’re not getting the desired outputs. And the nose of the
aircraft started to go down, and my tail gunner called for power, which basically means
pull the fucking stick up. He said he wasn’t getting the outputs and then next thing you know, we lost what we call a hover bubble. So went so far nose up
that we rolled left, and I was on left gun. So the things that I
remember, I mean, obviously. I being on my MVGs, I remember seeing, you know, different little flares. But the last thing I remember is like watching the
ground come towards me, and people ask me all
the time, they’re like, “Oh, did you pray? “Like, well, what happened?” – [Chris] You put in a lot of time do you? – You do, though, you do and you don’t. But like, I don’t know if
it was a defense mechanism or what it was, but I just
counted like I normally would if the helicopter were landing safely. So normally, it would be
five, four, three, two, one, mains on deck, so that
the pilots knew where, where we were in relation to the ground. And that’s what I did. And I, the last I remember
is smashing to the ground, and I woke up and came to just
because everybody, of course, was screaming and trying to
figure out who was where, and I didn’t feel anything. I just, I could feel I
lost the entirety of, I could fit my fist through
this side of my face. So I lost the entirely
of my jaw and my teeth. And I, I couldn’t breathe out of my nose. Like it was just,
everything was a struggle, and I was just trying to
make sense of everything. – Did you have a first thought? Were you like, “Man,
am I fucked up?” like, or is it, you know, what hurts or? – So they started, they couldn’t get a response
from my tail gunner, and my tail gunner was like my idol. He was a gunnery sergeant. I was just a corporal at the
time, and this dude, like, he was just everything
that I wanted, you know, to be as a Marine. And I don’t know why he did it, but he came off of his gunners belt. Some say it’s so that he could get to the one of the empty seats, but he ended up going out
the back of the helicopter. And he hit the river rocks before our helicopter
even hit the river rocks. So they were trying to call for him and get a reaction from him. And the moment I realized
that he wasn’t responding I was just started screaming, and that’s all I cared about, okay. I knew my life was destroyed, and I knew my arms were messed up, and I knew there was obviously
something wrong from here up, but I just wanted to know where he was. But conveniently, we were carrying three space available Army medics. Basically, they were just there to get a quick ride over
to where we were headed to. So I mean, they were quick. They got out of their seats. Obviously, we called for
security, and reinforcements. So we called up to 2nd
Battalion, 5th Marines. They came out from the FOB that we were supposed to be going to. Came out and the MRAPS helped
us strip the casualties, strip all the weapons, and they threw me into another helicopter, and alongside my tail
gunner, and we flew out. – Where did you go? – We went from Nowzad
straight to Camp Bastion, which is a British air
base out in Afghanistan, and I was there very briefly. I had two doctors pass me up. They looked at me and
said there’s not a chance, and they kept walking. – Not a chance you were going to make it. – Yeah, they decided that my head trauma, they just didn’t think that. – Did they explain to you what happened up here, you
know, with your brain movement? Were they able to give you
some prognosis on that, like, relatively quickly or was there down time?
– No No, I, it was more like, so I have, I’m actually good friends
with one of them now, and it took a lot for him
to walk up to me and say, “I’m sorry,” basically. But he just looked at me and was like, “Okay I have these other people here. “I can treat a blown-up leg, you know. “I can cauterize that and clean it up and, “but I can’t treat what she has going on.” And I had fractures is my C2, C3, and C4, so they couldn’t like turn my head to do a bunch of stuff with. And these are makeshift
hospitals, you know. They’re tents in the
middle of Afghanistan. But I got really lucky. There was a British plastic surgeon that was actually volunteering
her time out there. – Wow. – [Kirstie] And she then came up and was like, looked at everybody, and was like, “You know what, “you can sew up everything
else, but don’t touch her face” like, “I’m fixing that.” – [Chris] She did a nice job. – Thank you, I mean, if a corpsman did it, it would definitely make
me not be here. (laughing) – If a corpsman, as much
as you love corpsmen, it’s just like, it’s just that, that’s not their thing.
– No, it’s not their, no. – Was there a moment when
they’re passing you up that you’re like, “Am I gonna die? “I mean, is this it or?” – Well, I honestly thought
I was going to die, because like going through my head and the whole helicopter ride
back over, I just thought, like, “I am not dying without
seeing my little sister,” like, “the moment I say
goodbye to her, I’m out,” like, “I’m fine, it’s okay.” But then when I got– – And you were at peace? – I was okay with it. Like there was never a
moment of like crying or fear or anything like that. It was, “I just want to say bye. “Like if this is, if this
is how this is gonna end, “like I want to say bye to my, my sister. – Is that how you thought it would go? I mean because I’m sure when you enlist and when you’re out doing
this dangerous shit, you’re like, “Am I ready for death?” – Yeah, but it’s weird. I mean, it’s the, obviously,
like I had a will, you know. I flew with a picture, a cross
and a picture of my family in my pocket every single day. I would not go out without it, like. But in my mind like if I had them with me, like things would be okay. But I think in the moment
when you’re in the middle of like popping off 50 caliber machine gun and things are hitting the fan, like you don’t really think about it. You’re just, that you’re
running off adrenaline, and you’re doing what you need to do. And so in the moments where maybe you should
have those, you know, those thoughts and those fears, it’s never even comes to mind. – [Chris] You’ve got
too much Mountain Dew. – Yeah, pretty much. (laughs) – 38 surgeries, I mean
like, you know, shit. Football players would be
complaining about a couple of ’em. At least we get the hospital socks. I hope you collected hospital socks. I love hospital socks. – [Kirstie] I have ample now on one hook. – So with all the surgeries, I mean there’s gotta
be a lot of low points, but we’ve talked about this before like, the psychology of when
somebody walks in the room and tells you you’re losing a limb. That’s gotta be a heavy. You’re just like, “No fucking way.” Like I’m sure you knew it pretty quickly, but when they tell you
in a semi-sober state, because you couldn’t
take pain meds, right, because of the head trauma. You know, you’re dealing with the pain. You’re probably, I don’t
know where you are mentally, but they come in and then
they ask you, you know, they tell you you’re not gonna,
you’re gonna lose your leg. What’s that like? – Well, I think for me it was very, I don’t know if superficial
is the right word, but as a young woman, I
have a hole in my face, my back’s broken, my
leg’s destroyed, you know. At 21 years old, I’m not worried about am I gonna be able to walk again. I’m worried about can
I wear a dress again. Am I going to be able to wear heals? Who’s gonna look at me differently? Can I be a parent if I want to be? Those were the things
that scared me the most. Like I didn’t even, the
physical side of things didn’t even cross my mind initially. But then, of course, obviously,
this evolution happens whether you’re ready for it or not, and the physical side is like being a frickin’ toddler all over again. And I had to learn how to balance. When I stood for the first time, like, it was just total water works, because I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s not like you pop this
leg back on and you just go. Like there is so much like, so much thought that has
to go into all of it. You retrain your entire body. – [Chris] And you’re retraining your nervous system probably
and your proprioception or all these terms that I loosely know. (laughing) from stupid fucking rehab. But you’re going through
a real rehab process and coupled with probably
the psychological stuff that you’re afraid of and I guess. You know now, like I’ve got a teammate who lost a leg in a car
accident, Isaiah Pead, and we talked about him. I mean, there was a guy,
a practice squad guy for the Dolphins a week ago, that he was in a bad rollover accident, and they amputated his arm on the scene. And you’re somebody who’s, you know, a fighter and somebody who’s an athlete, and you’ve got all of
this stuff ahead of you. What advice would you give to somebody, whether it’s an athlete
or just somebody regular, when they’re getting that diagnosis that their life’s gonna change forever? – The thing that I have lived by, and it me took a long
time to figure this out, was it’s the six inches between your ears and what’s behind your
rib cage that dictate what you’re capable of, and the moment that I put my head and my
heart in the right place, it was totally fine. Like I was able to own, you know, the things that maybe
I was insecure about, or I was able to own the things that were challenging for me. But until you get this and
this in the right place, it’s not, you know, it’s
not gonna happen for you. And so that’s really
what it comes down to. The invisible side of things can overcome any of the physical stuff. – I mean, I get fucking
negative over the smallest, stupidest things, and
you’re losing a limb. You know, how do you, how do you? Is there a process to that? – I have always said that the right actions follow
the right perspectives, and the moment you can figure out how to shift your perspective
just a little bit, again, like everything
will come so easy for you. Like the moment I
realized that I came home and there’s a lot of other people that never did and never will, the light bulb went off, you know. Like if I can’t live this
life and be happy and grateful for the life that I have, then I need to do it for the people upstairs
who never came home. And not only that, but, you know, it’s as, cheesy as it sounds. like I could be really pissed
off that I’m missing one leg, or I can look at, you
know, all of the things that I’ve gained because of it. Sure, I’ve lost the leg. I’ve lost my military career. Hell, I lost a lot of my memory. You know, I’ve lost a lot. Or I can say because I’ve lost
these things, I’ve gained. And all of the opportunities,
the people, the, you know, just the experiences, it’s worth it. (upbeat tune) – That’s a tough one to
follow, pretty harrowing tale. Part three is gonna be all about how she turned those lows into highs. And she’s done it beautifully.

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