Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spent the last week in Australia, attending the 2018 Invictus Games. The competitive event was created by Harry back in 2014, and features eleven parasport events like wheelchair basketball and tennis for wounded, injured and sick war veterans. During the closing ceremony, one participant is awarded the Jaguar Land Rover Above and Beyond Award. This year, that honor went to Edwin Vermetten, for actions he took in the middle of a tennis event that brought one of his teammates back from the brink of a PTSD episode so he could continue playing. Harry paid tribute to Vermetten through Instagram for the “friendship, or as the Aussies call it ‘mateship,’ as a core value that has the power to inspire the world.”
Paul Guest served as a mine warfare specialist, according to The Telegraph. He was injured in 1986 while in the line of duty and was left with injuries to his back and neck, as well as damage to his hearing and vision, requiring 24-hour care. Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) took over, and the veteran was left, as he described it, secluded in his bedroom for the better part of 10 years. Participating in this year’s Invictus Games was a huge step for Guest, as he teamed up with Dutchman Edwin Vermetten to compete against a team from the United States in a wheelchair tennis competition. It was during that game that Guest and Vermetten had a very public, yet very personal, moment that touched those attending, earning Vermetten the Above and Beyond Award.
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“When we saw Paul Guest and Edwin Vermetten support each other through Paul’s struggle with Post Traumatic Stress on the tennis court in front of a large audience, we saw what mateship really looks like. The choice to serve is at the very heart of what I founded these Invictus Games to celebrate. I wanted your service to be recognised. What we saw again this week is that Invictus is so much more. It is about your example of determination, of optimism, of strength, honour and friendship, or as the Aussies call it ‘mateship’, as a core value that has the power to inspire the world.”— The Duke of Sussex #InvictusGames #Invictus #RoyalVisitAustralia #Australia #Sydney
When the game was at break point, it was Guest’s turn to serve. It was at this time when a helicopter flew overhead, triggering Guest’s PTSD. It became clear to those in the audience that he was struggling and unable to serve. Vermetten saw what was happening and went to his teammate. He kneeled so he could look Guest in the eye and took him by his shoulders. His head leaned forward so his forehead met with Guest’s forehead as he comforted his fellow veteran. Onlookers watched intently, some crying, as Vermetten talked his friend through his pain and pulled him back from the brink of a full-blown PTSD episode.
Vermetten later explained some of what was said between him and Guest, who has young children, in that moment.
“He said, ‘Look into my eyes and sing the ‘Frozen’ song, and we did. For him, this was the moment he let go, and he did, he literally let it all go.”
It was this moment of levity — and a reminder of his children — that brought Guest back, so he could continue with the competition. He and Vermetten went on to win the match.