“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
– Winston Churchill
Over the weekend, my Twitter feed was approximately 60% Prince Harry and Invictus Games, 20% Cute Animals and 20% makeup and miscellaneous. The percentages were encouraging because it meant that Invictus news was making the rounds, even beating out some undeniably precious pandas.
With the buzz surrounding Invictus Games, especially with the charming Prince Harry involved, conversation can quickly veer off course, no matter how noble the cause. With Prince Harry promoting Invictus to raise awareness, outlets have been latching on to his casual remarks in order to sell the fairytale and not the cause. Sure, wounded warriors who have overcome great adversity is cool and all but Prince Harry is like totally looking for a girlfriend and OMG!
A few hours ago, I did a Google search for Prince Harry and this is what was at the top of the News chain:
Really? Even during such an impressive massive undertaking as Invictus, Prince Harry’s love life is still the focus?
On Twitter, @_peppersmint_ has done a tremendous job in separating the key moments from all the noise and Tweeting the best of Prince Harry’s laudable efforts. I highly recommend following peppersmint for the best of both the Invictus Games and Prince Harry.
The Invictus Games are a sporting event created by Prince Harry, this year uniting 500 wounded, sick and injured armed services personnel from fourteen countries as they compete in the events of archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis. (Source: Invictus Games 2016 Official Website). Invictus is Latin for “unconquered” and derives its name from a poem by William Earnest Henley.
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.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Prince Harry has been the driving force behind Invictus which was launched in 2014, initially inspired by the 2013 Warrior Games in the US and expanded upon by the prince who was in the army for ten years until June of last year. Supporting those who have served their country is a cause to which Prince Harry is deeply devoted, but not all of his work makes the papers. As noted earlier this year by Herazeus, “Harry volunteers 3 days a week with the Ministry of Defence’s Recovery Personal programme unit.” More information on the programme “designed to ensure wounded, injured and sick service personnel receive co-ordinated support” can be found here. In September of last year, Prince Harry was joined by his brother Prince William in building homes for veterans in Manchester, an effort which did get quite a bit of press.
Having served in the army and devoted himself to military causes, Prince Harry is aware that the men and women who risk their lives defending their countries often have difficulties readjusting to civilian life, away from the brotherhood and sisterhood of the armed forces. Those who have been wounded while serving their countries don’t stop being soldiers when their injuries prohibit them from returning to combat, that’s when the real battle begins for wounded warriors. Some suffer through painful rehabilitation, having to learn how to use parts of their bodies again. Tragically, some have to find the strength to learn to live without parts of their body. Many find themselves crushed under the weight of all they have lost gasping for hope. The hell seems never-ending and Churchill’s famous words “Never, never, never give up,” aren’t a rallying cry for those deeply scarred but a reminder that giving up is an option.
Mike Roggio, a competitor at the Invictus Games who had broken his neck in a naval accident, shared with People, “One of the biggest obstacles in my recovery was dealing with depression. I went from being an athlete and a very able-bodied person to being bed-ridden and in diapers for several months. I couldn’t even push off the wall [of the pool] at first, but a few months down the road I was actually racing other people in the pool.”
With Invictus Games, Prince Harry reminds the injured, wounded and sick service personnel that the warrior spirit can’t be conquered. Through this competition within the brotherhood and sisterhood of the armed forces, Prince Harry gives them something to battle for and reminds them their injuries don’t define who they are or who they can be.
Opening ceremonies for Invictus 2016 were held on May 8th in front of 10,000 spectators. A member of our community, Melete, was there at the opening ceremonies and shared her experience with us:
“Attending the Opening Ceremony was a truly rewarding experience. I’m fortunate to live about 10 minutes away, so I felt like I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. My spouse is also a veteran with lingering issues from his military service, and I have so much respect for how Harry’s brought these Games about.
It’s almost difficult to describe just how happy everyone was to be there. The audience was enthusiastic about everything, and it was great to see people cheering all the competitors from all the countries as they walked out. In fact, the ladies sitting behind us were also locals, and they brought on the loud whistles and cheers for every country. People completely understood why there were there and just how important it was. I loved the sense that these competitors should all be the heroes we look up to. And honestly, I loved the push for hiring veterans, as that’s also a huge part of the event. Yes, the competitors were there to challenge themselves physically, but they’re also proving to the world that they’re still valuable members of society who have something to contribute in the workforce.
The flyover was awesome, and the helicopter bringing in the Invictus flag was pretty amazing. We could see the helicopters fly past, but from where I was sitting I couldn’t see the paratrooper exit (except on the screen). But everyone cheered when the flag got to the stage. The silent drill team was also incredible, and the audience loved it. The Invictus choir was one of my favorite parts, really impressive. The singers were just as moved as the people watching, so it made for a beautiful moment. Because the ceremony was being broadcast live, there were actually commercial breaks, and things would be shifted around for the next part of the ceremony. At first, it was a little confusing, but then we all got the hang of it, and when everything seemed to come to a stop, people around us would say, “Commercial break!” It was a fun group in the stadium and seemed to be a pretty good mix of locals and people from other countries. Lots of people from the UK, but that didn’t surprise me, since half the people who live around me are British. It was just nice to see so much support for the event, and if it wasn’t a full house (9500) it was very close to it.
James Blunt brought down the house. I’ve never seen him perform before, but it was clear he was enjoying himself but not making it all about himself. Then Harry walked out, and the stadium went wild. It wasn’t a celebrity thing, though, and Harry didn’t act like a celebrity or like this was all about him. It was clear that everyone genuinely appreciated the work he’d done with Invictus and bringing attention to wounded veterans. And he responded by turning everything away from himself and back on the competitors. I’ve seen other people comment about how good his speech was, but I’ll mention it again. It was really, really good. He carried himself well, he spoke with confidence, and I didn’t notice any hint of hesitation or even nerves. (There were teleprompters at the base of the platform, but I didn’t see him or anyone else who spoke rely much on them. They all knew what they were there to say.) It’s almost like Harry’s finally reached that place of maturity in which he knows who he is, why he’s doing this work, and he’s totally at peace with himself. I’ve seen a few complaints elsewhere that he’s making the Games all about himself, but nothing could be further from the truth in the Opening Ceremony. He was there to support and encourage, and he gave a speech that reflected it. In fact, everyone who stood up there and spoke had something very important to say, a piece of the pie if that makes sense, to remind the spectators and the audience watching from home just what the Games were all about. They weren’t about Harry, or Michelle Obama, or Morgan Freeman. They were about the wounded veterans who were reclaiming their sense of themselves and showing the world that you can be a whole person even if you lost your legs. They were also about the invisible injuries that are just as devastating, because people don’t always feel comfortable talking about them. So Harry et al talked about them, as they should.
(For what it’s worth, I only saw him from my seat, although one of the ladies sitting behind us saw him, Michelle Obama, and Robin Roberts when they came into the stadium. She must not have been too impressed, though, because when James Blunt said something about Harry being hot, she said, “No he’s not!”)
We stayed until just after the British soldiers spoke (right after DT). We had a small child with us, who was starting to look desperate for sleep, so we thought we’d beat the crowds. No luck there, as quite a few other people had the same idea. The show was supposed to run from 8-10 pm, but we left at 10:30, and it went for another 10-15 minutes. We saw the fireworks as we were walking back to the car.
Only downside had to do with getting in and getting out. VERY slow entry due to security (TSA checking bags and Secret Service monitoring metal detectors), and leaving was kind of horrible because the parking lot exit was poorly managed. Despite my living a few minutes away, we didn’t get home until shortly before midnight. That aside, it was worth it, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to go and support such an amazing cause.”
The games run from the 8th until the 12th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
The TV Schedule of Events for the Invictus Games has been posted on espn.go.com (all times ET):
Sunday, May 8:
- Opening ceremony, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Monday, May 9:
- Powerlifting finals, 8 a.m.-11 a.m. (ESPN3)
- Rowing finals, 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Archery finals, 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Day 1 recap show, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Day 1 recap show (re-air), 10:30 p.m.-midnight (ESPN2)
Tuesday, May 10:
- Track and field finals, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Sitting volleyball semifinals, 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Sitting volleyball gold/bronze medal matches, 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Day 2 recap show, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Day 2 recap show (re-air), 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Wednesday, May 11:
- Swimming finals, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Wheelchair rugby semifinals, 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Wheelchair rugby gold/bronze medal matches, 7:30 p.m.-11 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Day 3 recap show, 7 p.m.-8 p.m. (ESPN2)
- Day 3 recap show (re-air), 11 p.m.-midnight (ESPN2)
Thursday, May 12:
- Wheelchair tennis final, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. (ESPN3)
- Wheelchair basketball semifinals, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Wheelchair basketball gold/bronze medal matches, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. (ESPN3)
- Closing ceremony, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday, May 15:
- Encore presentation, 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (ABC)
The work Prince Harry has done is so inspiring. Not only is he supporting service personnel who have overcome great obstacles, he is celebrating the resiliency of the human spirit. Each of us in our lives deals with great adversity at some point. These games are a reminder of what we can achieve when we embrace our own inner warrior and fight back with everything we’ve got. And hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll have people with the warmth, compassion and generosity of spirit Prince Harry has shown to share in our triumph.