Prince Harry has opened up about the guilt he felt for being evacuated out of the war in Afghanistan in 2008 after his location was revealed by several media outlets, including an Australian magazine.
Harry is currently on a two-day visit to Sydney, Australia, where he was warmly greeted by thousands of fans who stood in the rain for hours just to catch a glimpse of the 32-year-old royal. He is there to launch the countdown to the Invictus Games, the international Paralympic-style event for wounded or sick veterans which he is a patron of.
After getting soaked in the rain as he shook hands and greeted a crowd of royal fans, Prince Harry talked about how his experience in Afghanistan led him to start the annual event.
After completing his officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2006 and being promoted to lieutenant, Harry was deployed to Afghanistan, where he would serve several tours of duty until 2013. However, one of his first tours ended abruptly when the Australian celebrity magazine New Idea and the German newspaper Bild decided to breach the news blackout on his whereabouts and told the world exactly where he was deployed.
Prince Harry had to be immediately evacuated out of his position in the war zone for his safety. According to the Daily Mail, the prince spoke about the experience on Wednesday and revealed that the guilt he felt at the time was “hard to swallow.”
“I could no longer stay with my soldiers as it would have put them at greater risk.”
“It was a decision over which I had no control,” he said, “but the guilt of having to leave my guys behind was something I felt hard to swallow as anyone who has served would understand.”
But the unfairness of the situation proved to be a blessing in disguise. It was on his flight home from Afghanistan that Prince Harry first became motivated to do something for veterans who were suffering in the aftermath of the war.
According to Harry, on the flight home with him were the body of a Danish soldier and three British soldiers in induced comas.
“The sacrifices we ask our men and women to make came home so powerfully to me in those moments,” the prince shared.
Harry would return to Afghanistan a few more times, but after a trip to Colorado Springs in the U.S. for the opening of the Warrior Games, he knew what he had to do.
“Sport would make the difference and help them fix their lives and reconnect with those around them,” he said about the goal of the Invictus Games.
The Telegraph reports that the prince urged Australians to rally behind their Invictus Games athletes when the event is held in Sydney in 2018.
“I promise you the sport you will see in front of you is some of the best, most competitive, uplifting and inspiring sport you will ever, ever see.”
“Seeing, literally, lives change through sport is one of the most uplifting and inspiring things that I think you’ll ever see,” he said.
While in Sydney, Prince Harry watched demos of adaptive sports such as sitting volleyball and wheelchair rugby. He also greeted hordes of admirers, including 97-year-old war widow Daphne Dunne, who wasn’t deterred by the thunderstorm. Ms. Dunne waited for hours so Prince Harry could give her a peck on the cheek as he had done during his visit to Sydney in 2015.
“He kissed me on the other cheek this time,” Ms. Dunne said.
“He really is a lovely young [man] and he’s warm and genuine and really cares about the injured servicemen and women, he’s doing a fantastic job supporting them.”
[Featured Image by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]