Invictus 2016 is going to be a huge success – let’s get out there and let’s make this happen.The Duke of Sussex
Good afternoon and thank you all for being here.
In February 2008, at the end of my first tour of Afghanistan, I traveled home on an aircraft carrying three seriously injured British Soldiers and the coffin of a Danish Soldier. Seeing these young guys - much younger than me - wrapped in plastic and missing limbs with hundreds of tubes coming out of them, was something I never prepared myself for. For me, this is where it all started.
From that moment, I was committed to doing all I could to ensure that those men and women, who had sacrificed so much for their countries, would receive the recognition and support they deserved.
Just over three years ago in this room where we are standing today, I met a small group of wounded British Soldiers, who had just competed in the Warrior Games in Colorado. Their enthusiasm for the games was infectious and I just had to see it for myself the next year. The competitors were so inspirational that when I returned to London I was determined to take this idea to a bigger audience.
The inaugural Invictus Games exceeded our wildest expectations. Crowds of tens of thousands and TV audiences of millions enjoyed four days of nail-biting sport, and stories of bravery and determination.
During the games we received a message from the wife of one of the US competitors. She wrote to us saying:
"I'd like to say thank you. My husband is on the USA team and when he's competing I see him smile. A genuine smile. I cried because I had not been able to make him smile at home. It hurts me but at the same time I try to understand it’s not my fault. Our 3 children we call little warriors because they too have to adapt and overcome. The father and friend they once knew isn't the same. I wish I would've been able to bring them because they could’ve shared in his happiness. Thank you for these games! They truly were a blessing because his smile is something we've missed!"
I think we will all be honest, the months and weeks leading up to the games were trying and stressful, full of long nights and incredibly hard work from the sponsors, the organisers, and all those involved in the project – people just like you in this room. But it was messages like these that made it all worthwhile and lifted our ambitions even further. We knew the Invictus story had to keep going.
We are all absolutely delighted that Ken Fisher and his team have taken up the challenge of holding the next games in Orlando; so that this lady's family and many other families just like hers are able to move forward with smiles on their faces.
We have a lot of work ahead of us over the next six months.
We need to make sure the teams from around the world are well supported and can tell their stories in their home countries before they leave.
We need to make sure that every US competitor gets a chance to rally their communities so we build interest and excitement around Invictus in towns and cities across this country.
And finally, we need the people of Florida and of Orlando in particular to lead the way in building the Invictus spirit over the next seven months. Believe me, this is something special that you will never forget.
I want May 8th to the 12th to be dates on the calendar that millions of Americans are looking forward to. I can’t wait to see the tens of thousands who turn up to fill the stadiums to cheer on our competitors.
I am so grateful to have all of you on board. There may be a lot of work to do, but we all know how important our mission is.
Invictus 2016 is going to be a huge success – let’s get out there and let’s make this happen.