Last Sunday night, Prince Harry gave the opening address for the second Invictus Games, an Olympic-type competition for wounded warriors from all over the world. Speaking to the competitors and their attending families, he concluded his remarks.
“I served along soldiers from all over the world. I saw the sacrifices you and your families made to serve you nations…That’s why I had to create the Invictus Games, to create a platform for all those who served. Their stories are as amazing as they are unique. They focus on what can be achieved, rather then what can’t. Over the next four days you will see things that in years past would not have been possible. You will be inspired, you will be moved and you will be entertained.”
With Harry, It’s Personal
Prince Harry was deployed to Afghanistan twice during his 10 years of service in the British Army. His first deployment, in 2008, ended abruptly after 10 weeks due to safety concerns when the media exposed his whereabouts. He was devastated, he said, being “plucked” from his team and leaving them there.
What was more devastating was the carnage he witnessed on his flight home, he told the Daily Mail in an interview in March. First, the flight was delayed while a coffin carrying a Danish soldier was loaded. And on that plane were also the wounded — men and women missing limbs and holding the shrapnel that had been removed from their heads. To Harry, this was a turning point.
Harry returned to Afghanistan in 2013 for a 20-week tour. When he returned, he was more determined than ever to commit himself to the rehabilitation of the wounded and to the promotion of his now favorite cause: worldwide efforts to heal the sick and injured, both physically and mentally.
First Lady Michelle Obama a Natural Partner
In 2013, Harry was invited to the Warriors Games held in the U.S. Michelle Obama had been instrumental in getting these Games off the ground, and it was during that event that the partnership was born.
In 2014, the first Invictus Games were held in London with the promise to make them a bi-annual event. Thus, the Games taking place in Orlando this week, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. More than 500 competitors from 15 nations are attending this week’s Games.
Focus on Mental Health
Many wounds are quite visible. But both Prince Harry and First Lady Obama have vowed to promote worldwide understanding and commitment to those returning servicemen and women who suffer from the invisible wounds of mental illness as well. In a renewed call for mental health rehabilitation, Harry had this to say.
“It’s a massive issue…the stigma surrounding it is a massive issue. I want to re-emphasize to people that it’ not a ticking time bomb…the psychological illnesses can be fixed if sorted out early enough.”
And Mike Goody, the captain of the British swim team, would agree. As a former RAF aircraftsman, he lost his leg in an IED explosion and suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome upon his return. With the right therapy and assistance, he went on to win five medals during the 2014 Games and plans to beat his personal record this time around.
“Prince Harry’s been an absolute legend…literally, he was everywhere. You know, we couldn’t get rid of him if we tried…boosting everything, pumping everything, getting everyone going…”
By the end of the opening ceremonies Sunday night, with a closing address by First Lady Obama, the crowd was pumped and ready to go.
And as Prince Harry quipped, “Game on!”
[Photo by John Raoux/AP Images]