Prince Harry took time to visit injured U.S. veterans as part of his tour of the nation’s capital, and told them in no uncertain terms that his deployments to Afghanistan “changed my life.”
It is well documented that Prince Harry and his brother, Prince William — second in line to the British throne — are strong supporters of injured veterans. In 2014, the 31-year-old royal started the Invictus Games Foundation, a Paralympic-style competition for disabled veterans in the U.K. and is bringing the event to the U.S.
According to the foundation’s website, the inaugural Invictus Games — held in London in 2014 — used the power of sports to “support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women.”
“These Games have shone a spotlight on the ‘unconquerable’ character of servicemen and women, their families and the ‘invictus’ spirit.”
In the same spirit, Prince Harry — joined by First Lady Michelle Obama — told U.S. veterans at Virginia’s Fort Belvoir that his two deployments to Afghanistan changed the direction of his life.
“There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war. The experiences can be stark and long-lasting.”
Prince Harry told the wounded veterans his calling came after a trip back home with his injured comrades, after his first deployment to Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot in September 2012. At the time, it was reported that the Taliban was attempting to kidnap the royal for ransom, but Harry refused to stay home and went to the front lines with his unit.
“From that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service.”
Prince Harry also toured the USO Warrior and Family Center — a facility that offers assistance to injured or sick troops and those who care for them — according to Today.
Mrs. Obama told those attending that for Prince Harry, U.S. veterans are not a foreign, distant cause, but “brothers and sisters in arms.” Prince Harry also attended a wheelchair basketball game with Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, where he was seen enthusiastically cheering on the competitors.
Speaking with Today Army Specialist Sydney Davis — who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — talked about the importance of sports therapy and the Invictus Games in particular.
“It pulls you out of that hole that you’re in, and you start to see your depression lessen,” Davis said.
Prince Harry returned to Afghanistan in 2013, which was announced by Clarence House only after the royal was safely back in the U.K.
Not only has Prince Harry supported veterans by starting foundations such as Invictus Games, but he participated in a daring expedition to Antarctica for Walking with the Wounded in December, 2013. During the grueling three-week trek, Prince Harry successfully reached the South Pole along with 12 servicemen.
“Every single one of these 12 deserves it. I mean, they have dug out blind to get here. Duncan, you know, it’s just remarkable the fact that someone with no legs has made it here, and to have done it in record-breaking time, no doubt.”
Prince Harry’s visit to U.S. veterans underscore how dear to his heart this cause is, and in 2016, Orlando will be the site for another Invictus Games. Prince Harry returned to the U.K. on Wednesday and, despite his reputation of being the “black sheep” of the royal family, he has a big heart when it comes to veterans of the U.K. and the U.S.
[Photo by Kris Connor / Getty Images]