Ironbridge welcomes Sgt. Ennis to the community |

Ironbridge welcomes Sgt. Ennis to the community

Kirste Ennis poses for a photo Saturday with retired USMC Lt. Col. Dick Merritt (left) and retired U.S. Navy veteran Dan Glidden (right) at the Ironbridge Grill and Golf Club.
Josh Carney / Post Independent |

On a picturesque day at Ironbridge Golf Course, United State Marine Sgt. Ennis was able to get her first taste of the place she’ll be moving into thanks to the Building Homes for Heroes project as well as Ironbridge community, which contributed a plot of land.

Ennis, whom the Post Independent featured last month, suffered serious injuries in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2012. Despite 41 surgeries and loss of her left leg, she’s become a top  snowboarder, ranked eighth in the world among parathlete women. Her new home allows her to train in Aspen.

She was simply amazed by the beautiful scenery as well as the outpouring of support she’s received since she was awarded a home by Building Homes for Heroes.

“Being here today is special for me, because I get to put some faces to names and really get a feel for the area,” Ennis said. “So far it’s been wonderful. Everyone has been so kind and willing to help in any way that they can, and that means so much to me; I’m so grateful.”

Along with the house and land that Ennis will receive, the majority owner at Ironbridge will match up to $50,000 in donations received for Ennis’ home. The golf club put half of the green fees generated from Saturday into a donation, while Ironbridge Grill took donations all day long as well. Not knowing that was going to happen on Saturday, Ennis struggled to put into words just how much it all meant to her.

“That really just ties back into me being in disbelief at the number of people that want to help and want to be involved,” Ennis said. “The people that I’ve just met have, they just go above and beyond. I don’t know these people yet, you know? But for these people to want to come out and be a part of the build or part of my life … incredible. I never once expected anything in my life [in return] for what I’ve done, but these people have been so great to me.”

During a meet-and-greet Saturday at Ironbridge Grill, roughly 20-30 people showed up to express their support for Ennis, as well as getting a chance to know a new neighbor with an incredible backstory. In fact, Ennis said that people have already opened their arms and their homes to her despite barely knowing here, which signals just what this community stands for.

“So many people found me on social media after the story was written and everyone sent amazing messages to me,” Ennis said. “People said to me that they know I don’t have family out here, but that whatever I needed — even inviting me into their homes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, you name it — is amazing. I’ve never seen that kind of support from anywhere in my life.”

Ennis, who despite her injuries continues to volunteer in many veteran services, was even invited by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Lt. Col. Dick Merritt — in his Marines Corps dress blues — and U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran Dan Glidden to take part in the Huts for Vets program, which is a wilderness healing program for veterans next year once she’s fully settled into her new home. Seeing retired military veterans show up to support her was truly moving for Ennis and has her ready to finally settle down in a home she can call her own.

“I’m looking forward to being able to put roots down somewhere,” Ennis said. “I joined the military at 17 and never really had a home since then because I was constantly doing something for the military or just moving around with my medical stuff. But I can’t be more excited to call this place home.”

The groundbreaking ceremony on Ennis’ new home will take place sometime in November around Veterans Day. Completion is expected for late spring, during which Building Homes for Heroes will throw a big celebration for Ennis at her new home. In the meantime, Ennis will continue to travel across the country for speaking engagements of all kinds, including a trip to New Orleans and Minneapolis to give pre-game speeches to the Saints and Vikings later this month.

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