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They’ve lost limbs or suffered horrific wounds.
Some have scars you can’t see — the insidious, yet just as real injuries inflicted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They may be battered and bruised, but their fighting spirit is still strong.
In two weeks, they’ll meet in Toronto to compete in the Invictus Games.
Now in their third year, the games are the brainchild of Prince Harry. He was inspired to help those who’ve suffered traumatic injuries by his own experiences as a soldier in Afghanistan.
In a moving speech in Toronto in May, 2016, Harry spoke of returning to Britain on a flight with soldiers who’d been horrifically injured.
“Once in the air, I stuck my head through the curtain to see three British soldiers, really young lads, much younger than me at the time, laid out on stretchers in induced comas, all three wrapped in plastic, missing limbs with tubes coming out of them everywhere,” he told the crowd.
Four years later, Harry returned to Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot, working to support medical teams evacuating soldiers and civilians from the battlefield.
“I sat high above the ground at the controls of one of the world’s most advanced helicopters and yet found I was powerless to protect the men, women and children below,” he said.
That’s when he vowed to do something to help those brave men and women who’d suffered as a result of their service to their country.
They didn’t need our sympathy, Harry said. They just needed a chance to shine. To compete. To regain a meaningful role in society.
Sport is the perfect vehicle for healing. Invictus athletes also find the camaraderie of spending time with kindred spirits — former military types who’ve gone through hell and are now seeking the path back to normalcy.
All of them praise Harry for giving them this gift, this chance to find a meaningful path back to civilian life. Harry’s their hero. He “gets it,” they say. He understands what it means to be wounded, mentally and physically.
Men and women from 17 nations will descend on Toronto Sept. 23-30. They’ve served their countries, given their all — and suffered the consequences.
What a guy Harry’s turned out to be. He’s so much more than Meghan Markle’s boyfriend. He’s a courageous, compassionate human being. He’s suffered tragedy in his short life and understands personal loss. Now he’s helping others who need a helping hand through troubled times.
He’ll be here throughout the games. Let’s show him Toronto cares. We care about our military. We remember their sacrifices, not just Nov. 11, but year round.
Let’s show these brave men and women we’re there for them, just as they were there for us. Let’s cheer all the athletes. Because every one of them is a winner.
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.
— William Ernest Henley
• The poem is the inspiration and represents the spirit of the Invictus Games — the unconquerable soul of human endeavour.
• The goal is to use sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
• Founded by Prince Harry, the first games took place in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2014. This year the Games were held in Orlando, where 500 athletes from 14 nations competed.
• At a news conference to promote the Games last year, Harry described how he’d returned from Afghanistan with three British soldiers who’d suffered horrific injuries. Wrapped in plastic and in induced comas, Harry vowed he would do everything he could to help them — and others like them.
“We showed veterans didn’t need our sympathy, just the opportunity to play a meaningful role in society once again,” he said.
• The Invictus Games are coming to Toronto, September 23-30, 2017.
• The word Invictus is from the Latin for “unconquered.”
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