By Debbie Gregory.
Britain’s Prince Harry was greeted by cheers when he entered Wells Field House at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to officially launch the 2016 Invictus Games. The Prince, who is the Patron for the games, was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, and they all “high-fived” the athletes who had lined up to meet them.
The inaugural Invictus Games took place last year in London, England, using the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women worldwide.
In May 2012, Prince Harry met with five injured service members in Washington, D.C., before accepting a humanitarian award for his charity work with wounded warriors. He then attended the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado, which is where the idea for the Invictus Games was born.
“I saw the power that sport could play in the recovery of both mind and body,” he said. “I left Colorado with a determination to broaden this to an international audience.”
Prince Harry attributed the 10 years he spent in the British army as life-changing. He did two tours of duty in Afghanistan and shared a flight home with three British soldiers in comas and a Danish soldier who had been killed in action. That’s when the reality of war really sunk in.
“From that moment, I knew I had the responsibility to help all veterans who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries to lead healthy and dignified lives after service,” he said.
The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It embodies the fighting spirit of the wounded, injured and sick service personnel and what these tenacious men and women can achieve, post injury.
“The games epitomized the very best of the human spirit — men and women who had not only adjusted to life, but embraced it, proving what can be achieved post-injury rather than focusing on what cannot,” Prince Harry said.
Joining Prince Harry on his trip to the U.S. were two competitors from the British Armed Forces team who took part in last year’s Games.
Mickaela Richards, from the Royal Navy, won three medals at the 2014 Invictus Games. A former Captain with the Army in the Royal Engineers, Rob Cromey-Hawke won two Gold medals in the cycling event.
“Sport has played such a huge part in my recovery. The Games last year taught me that I don’t need to be defined by my injuries and that I can achieve as much as I did when I was in the military. In fact, it’s inspired me to do more and more with my life,” said Cromey-Hawke.
The 2016 Invictus Games will take place in Orlando, Florida May 8th-12th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.