8 May 2016, Orlando, Florida, USA
The Invictus Games is a sporting competition featuring injured servicemen and women and veterans from 14 countries.
I cannot tell you how proud and excited I am to open the second Invictus games here in America.
I’m a long way from London tonight. But when I look out and I see so many familiar faces, servicemen and women, their friends and their families and all the people who have got them here – I feel like I’m at home.
I spent 10 years in the British Army and I was deployed to Afghanistan twice. I served alongside soldiers from all over the world. I saw the sacrifices you and your families made to serve your nations. I learned about the importance of teamwork and camaraderie in a way that only military service can teach you. And when I travelled back from the battlefield on a plane carrying the body of a Danish soldier and three young Brits, fighting for their lives, I began to understand the real, permanent cost of war.
I joined the Army because, for a long time, I just wanted to be one of the guys. But what I learned through serving was that the extraordinary privileges of being a Prince gave me an extraordinary opportunity to help my military family. That’s why I had to create the Invictus Games – to build a platform for all those who have served to prove to the world what they have to offer.
Over the next four days, you will see things that in years past just wouldn’t have been possible. You will see people who by rights should have died on the battlefield – but instead they are going for gold on the track or in the pool. You will be inspired, you will be moved, and I promise you will be entertained.
While I have your attention, though, I want to briefly speak about an issue that for far too many of you is shrouded in shame and fear. An issue that is just as important for many of you watching at home as it is for those of you in this stadium tonight.
It is not just physical injuries that our Invictus competitors have overcome. Every single one of them will have confronted tremendous emotional and mental challenges. When we give a standing ovation to the competitor with the missing limbs, let’s also cheer our hearts out for the man who overcame anxiety so severe he couldn’t leave his house. Let’s cheer for the woman who fought through post-traumatic stress and let’s celebrate the soldier who was brave enough to get help for his depression.
Over the next four days you will get to know these amazing competitors. They weren’t too tough to admit that they struggled with their mental health, and they weren’t too tough to get the help they needed.
To those of you watching at home and who are suffering from mental illness in silence – whether a veteran or a civilian, a mum or a dad, a teenager or a grandparent – I hope you see the bravery of our Invictus champions who have confronted invisible injuries, and I hope you are inspired to ask for the help that you need.
To end, can I just say thank you to all of you guys. You are fierce competitors. You are role models that any parent would be proud to have their children follow. You’ve made me a better person. You are about to inspire the world and I’m proud to call you my friends.
So, let’s put on a hell of a show in memory of all of our fallen comrades who didn’t make it back.
We are Invictus!