When she reunites with Prince Harry later this spring, former U.S. Marine and amputee Kirstie Ennis won’t be expecting pity from her best-known supporter.
Despite the upheaval of a second amputation, she’s likely to receive the playful ribbing that often buoys the wounded warrior community.
“We will probably just laugh about it,” Ennis, 25, tells PEOPLE. “What’s left to do? I’ve braced myself as the amputee jokes are coming!”
The royal, an Afghanistan veteran like Ennis, sent his support – and cookies! – following her first amputation back in November. Since then, she suffered an infection that led to a further above-the-knee procedure.
Harry “knows that I don’t want pity from anyone, and I expect us to go about business as usual. I’m sure I’ll get the cheeky ‘You look like you’ve lost a little weight’ comment referring to my leg. Very light-hearted and kind of course!”
The prince will also know, as she humbly puts it, that “I’ve faced an uphill battle.” But she adds, “At the end of the day, this doesn’t define me. I have grown and am stronger because of it, but this new amputation won’t keep me down.”
“I’m missing a body part, but I’ve got the same amount of heart that I did before.”
Florida native Ennis, who suffered multiple injuries in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2012, is being cared for at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California. She is planning to compete in swimming, rowing and cycling events at the Games.
“I have found modified ways to train for my different sports for Invictus,” she says. “I’ve been working really hard with my physical therapists to get me ready to go on an upright cycle again.”
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When Harry meets her and her colleagues in May, she will be ready for the sporting contests ahead.
“Invictus means unbreakable,” she adds defiantly. “You can damage me physically, but the you won’t take away my drive or compassion for what I do. I’ve represented my country by wearing the uniform, and now I’ll represent it in sports.”