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A speech by Prince Harry at Fort Belvoir

Published 28 October 2015

From that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to help all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service.

The Duke of Sussex

Hello everyone, thanks so much for being here today.

On behalf of all veterans, I’d like to start by saying a big thank you to the First Lady and Dr. Biden. Through Joining Forces you have led the way in championing the welfare of service personnel and their families here in the US. Thank you for everything you have done.

I joined the army in 2005. It was a time when service men and women and their families both in the U.S and the U.K were making sacrifices for their countries that had not been experienced for generations. In combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, military personnel were setting examples for everyone about the values of service, duty, and dedication. So too did their partners and children back home in the cities, towns, and villages of our nations.

I am in no doubt that my two deployments to Afghanistan changed the direction of my life. There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war. The experiences can be stark and long lasting.

Returning to the UK after my first deployment, I shared the flight home with three critically injured British soldiers, all in induced comas, and the body of a Danish soldier, killed in action. It hit me then that this flight was one of many, carrying home men and women whose lives would be changed forever, and some who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

From that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to help all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service.

In 2013 I visited the Warrior Games in Colorado. I saw the power that sport could play in the recovery of both mind and body. I thought that surely everyone, whether connected to the Armed Forces or not, would be inspired by their achievements. I left Colorado with the determination to broaden this to an international audience - the idea for the Invictus Games was born.

Last year at the first Invictus Games, we saw over 400 competitors from 13 nations competing in the iconic venues of the London Olympics. Audiences of tens of thousands turned out to show their support. The games epitomised 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.

The Invictus Games seeks to change perceptions of physical and mental injury.

One thing we have to talk about more is breaking down these barriers around so-called invisible injuries, like post-traumatic stress, just as we have for physical injuries like the loss of a limb.

This is a topic I know the First Lady and Dr. Biden are working hard to highlight so that people are no longer afraid to ask for help. This fear of coming forward, as a result of the stigma which surrounds mental health, is one of the greatest challenges veterans face. People from all walks of life struggle with issues like post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression, not just veterans.

We have to help them all to get the support they need, without fear of being judged or discriminated against. Not only is it ok to talk about it, we have to talk about it. I am thrilled that the Invictus Games are happening again. Hundreds of additional veterans from around the world will benefit from taking part. And millions more people will be inspired by their stories. This is going to be four incredible days of sport.

I hope that Invictus 2016 will remind people everywhere just how incredible our service personnel are, and how much of a positive contribution to society they make.

I am sure the American public will embrace the Invictus Games, just as the British public did in 2014.

I can’t wait to see you all in Orlando. You better bring it USA.

Thank you.