As Prince Harry greeted the Walking With The Wounded team at Buckingham Palace on Sunday, November 1, he shared an emotional moment with 24-year-old Kirstie Ennis, a U.S. Marine.
Ennis, who has traveled 1,000 miles around the United Kingdom gifting dog tags, was wounded in a crash in Afghanistan three years ago when her Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed.
Ennis survived but her jaw and face were destroyed when she was hit by a .50-caliber machine gun. She suffered serious multiple injuries to the rest of her body too.
People magazine reported that Ennis was planning on leaving the last dog tag at Buckingham palace, but ended up giving the tag to Harry himself.
“No I can’t, I can’t accept this,” Harry said, according to People.
“Please, you know what this means to me, I want you to,” Ennis replied, according to People, before sharing a heartfelt embrace with the prince.
He then told her, “This means so much to me.”
Ennis was supposed to have her leg amputated this summer, but she put it off so she could participate in the U.K’s Walking With The Wounded trip. Ennis walked with four former British service members, who also participated.
“I had the dog tags made to remember 25 marines, 25 brothers that we lost,” Ennis said. “It was very important to me, even if I can’t still serve in the military in the capacity I want, to honor the fallen, honor the guys who made the ultimate sacrifice. A lot of them were very young.
“The dog tag that I gave Prince Harry was for Corporal TJ Baune, Taylor Baune. He passed away just 10 days before my helicopter went down and I was injured and the two guys who got blown up with him, Brad and Chris, that are missing their legs now have been part of my own support network in dealing with my own injuries,” said Ennis. “They were my rocks for a long time, we grew together in hospital.”
“I look at situations like that, he never came home, he had a wife and a family but he never came home. The six of us here today did come home, we are actually the lucky ones. The least we can do is share their legacy and honour their memory,” said Kirstie.
“Harry was reluctant to accept it at first because he knows how much it means. He has helped me lay a couple of them and was hesitant to take them as he knows how much it means to me. I told him he had to.”
“It was bittersweet, it was quite painful and there is nothing you can do to prepare for that, even when you are able bodied, much less when you have debilitating injuries,” said Kirstie about the 1,000-mile walk. “It was quite the challenge.”
Prince Harry is known for his compassion for wounded soldiers and greeted all the soldiers doing the walk as they finished the 1,000-mile walk in 72 days to raise awareness about the problems that disabled veterans face.
The team consisted of six people and their walk ended at Buckingham Palace. The walk began on August 22, in Scotland, and continued through to London.
Prince Harry, who is now 31, walked 17 miles with the group in September. Those walking alongside Harry were amputees, servicemen suffering from traumatic brain injuries and victims of improvised explosive devices.
A supporter of Walking With the Wounded since the foundation was formed, Prince Harry has participated in several walks the charity has organized, including a 2011 expedition to the North Pole and one to the South Pole two years later.
Prince Harry has a passion for injured servicemen and women and believes in supporting them. He is also the patron of the Invictus Games, a multi-sport event for wounded veterans that he founded back in 2014.
In October, Prince Harry traveled to the United States and met Michelle Obama at Virginia’s Fort Belvoir to meet with wounded members of the military.
“I am in no doubt that my two deployments to Afghanistan changed the direction of my life,” Harry said while at Fort Belvoir. “There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war. The experiences can be stark and long lasting.”
Back in October, the Prince Harry helped build homes for U.K. vets that needed them.
[Image via: Getty Images]