The second Invictus Games kicked off Sunday night, May 8, in Orlando, Florida to celebrate the world’s wounded heroes’ abilities and “the very best of the human spirit.” Founded by Britain’s Prince Harry, this event brings together military warriors from around the world to compete and continue to serve their countries.
The first Invictus Games were held in September 2014 in London. Around 300 competitors gathered to compete and prove there is no such thing as disabled. The Invictus Games, which are a Paralympic-style sporting event for wounded and injured servicemen and women, Telegraph explains, were created by Prince Harry “to demonstrate the power of sports to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and to demonstrate life beyond disability.”
This year, there will be over 500 military competitors from 15 nations participating in the five-day event. They will compete in 10 events including archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis. The next Games will be held in September 2017 in Canada.
Invictus means “unconquered” and this is Prince Harry’s goal, to change everyone’s focus from the injuries these military warriors come home with, or body parts they may not have any longer, to their indomitable “invictus” spirit and unconquerable character.
About the 2014 Games, Prince Harry said, “Invictus 2014 smashed stigma on visible injuries—this year can do the same on invisible injuries.”
There is a famous poem called Invictus by William Ernest Henley, who was also an amputee, that reflects the spirit of these Games.
“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.”
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.”
“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Prince Harry joined President George W. Bush for the Symposium on Invisible Wounds to address the very real issue of mental health, which is as important, if not more so, than physical health. When someone slices a finger or breaks a leg, they get medical help and there is no stigma attached to it, but there might be an opportunity to sign a cast.
The same lack of stigma needs to be applied to mental health issues. The Symposium addressed “post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other psychological health issues that are often the most debilitating but least recognized ongoing health issues suffered by our heroes after the war is over and their physical injuries are treated.”
Prince Harry also has joined his brother William and sister-in-law Kate for the Heads Together campaign, which will run between now and next year’s London Marathon, with the goal of raising awareness of mental health issues and support that is available. He wants to de-stigmatize the idea that anyone who needs mental health support is somehow weaker or flawed somehow. He made this point by stating post-traumatic stress “is not a disorder it’s an injury.”
It also does not just affect veterans, it can affect anybody. In an interview with ABC News, he points out that the “media have given this impression that so many guys leaving the forces are like a ticking time bomb. That’s not the case at all.” But for those who do need support he, along with Michelle Obama, want to de-stigmatize the topic so those who need it can “go out and get the support they need,” she clarified. They also want to use the military to help spread awareness and remind people that when those issues are addressed, there are ways to cope and get your life back on track.
The Invictus Games continue through Thursday, May 12, and will be covered on ESPN2 and ESPN3.
[Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]