As she travels Britain on a 1,000-mile trek with fellow wounded veterans, former U.S. Marine Kirstie Ennis is making her own quiet tribute to her fallen colleagues.
At about every 40 miles, she leaves a memorial dog tag with the name of an armed forces member, along with a note and a poem.
“Prince Harry actually helped me place my dog tag,” Ennis, 24, told PEOPLE at the end of a 17-mile trek to Ludlow Castle, the 40th day of the walk. “He’s so understanding and really appreciated what I was doing. He wanted to be involved and pass on a message to the family.”
At a war memorial in the church yard next to Stokesay Castle in Craven Arms, about 154 miles northwest of London, Ennis placed a dedication to Corporal Joey Logan, her marine colleague who died in Jan. 2012 — the same year as the crash which injured her. He died in 2012 – a few months before the helicopter crash in Afghanistan that left Ennis with brain damage, burns, broken bones and a shattered jaw. Along with a photo with Harry, she wrote on Instagram,”Rest easy brother, we will take it from here.”
The dog tags are her way of spreading the word about the sacrifices made. “We lost 25 guys either killed in action or they lost their battle to PTSD when they returned home,” she says. “My way of sharing their memory is by placing these memorial dog tags.
“I’m honoring the fallen, sharing the legacy, keeping them alive. It means a lot to me that a stranger will be able to find these things and have a peek into the life of what military guys do, and their sacrifices.”
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The walk that began at the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown in the Scottish highlands on August 22 and will end at Buckingham Palace on November 1.
Ennis, who underwent 38 surgeries in the wake of the crash and walks with the help of a brace on her left leg, is now a snowboarder for the U.S. Paralympic Team.
“With my leg I have a lot of pain, and pain in my lower back because of the offset of my hips,” she says, adding with a smile, “for the most part we are used to the pain.”
The third day of the walk brought her to Ben Nevis in Scotland, the highest mountain in Great Britain. “On one hand I never felt so disabled in my life,” she says. “I felt defeated by the pain and frustration at not being able to do it without problem. It is mostly walking, but there’s some scrambling too. It was very, very difficult for me.
“But it was also the place where I left my first tag. For whatever reason, God was on our side and it was actually sunny at the top of Ben Nevis, which never happens. That was moment when I thought ‘I can do this. This walk’s going to be a piece of cake.’ ”
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