Invictus Games embolden veterans, inspire us all

Active soldiers also compete, redefine 'disability' on global stage

Photo caption: On May 2, Prince Harry addressed a room of active and veteran service men and women, their families, national media and dignitaries at the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 launch, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto.

Four weeks ago Prince Harry was in Toronto to announce the Canadian Invictus Games, an international Paralympics-style competition for injured members and veterans of the armed forces. The Toronto games in September 2017 are set to host several hundred competitors from a long list of allied countries including Afghanistan, Australia, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Netherlands, the UK, and the USA.

In 2013, I travelled with Prince Harry to witness the Warrior Games, which are a U.S.-only sports competition for their wounded veterans. Prince Harry lamented the fact that the Paralympics, which had been created for wounded veterans after the Second World War had become almost completely civilianized and the Warrior Games were for U.S. service members only. From there The Invictus Games were born, with a name inspired by William Henley’s famous poem.

All Canadians can recognize the ‘unconquered’ will within

Invictus means unconquered in Latin. The poem’s last stanza, in particular, has encouraged countless individuals, and not just those returning injured from war: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

I immediately saw these games as something both Medcan and True Patriot Love, the military family charity I chair, could get behind. If injured veterans and their families are living out the definition of invictus, their commitment and perseverance could invite all Canadians to recognize the ability to push beyond physical, psychological and other limitations.

True Patriot Love submitted Toronto Invictus bid

True Patriot Love submitted the bid, assembled a distinguished organizing committee, and secured the required $10 million in federal funding.   The Toronto bidding process began in 2014, after Prince Harry launched the inaugural games in London. Toronto’s world-class sport facilities created for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games made it a deserving venue as did the strength of our ties with the U.K. and the U.S., the host of the second games in Orlando.

The Invictus Games meet the True Patriot Love mandate to bridge the gap between military and civilian communities. We also fulfill it through our national galas and global expeditions to the Himalayas, the North Pole and Antarctica.

Since 2008, the foundation has committed more than $15.1 million toward family health and support, physical health and rehabilitation, mental health and well being, and research and innovation.

Gen. Rick Hillier (ret.): Don’t forget the veterans of today

Former Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces (retired) General Rick Hillier recently wrote in The National Post on the impact of the foundation’s expeditions to former soldiers.

“The program is so inspiring, in fact, that some of this year’s Team Canada members (…) count that program among the reasons for their success,” wrote Hillier, who was one of the dignitaries recognized by Prince Harry in Toronto. As General Hillier says, future generations will decide to serve, or not serve, our country based in part on how we treat this present generation.

General Hillier’s complete National Post column.

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