All Remembrance Day ceremonies are poignant and a powerful reminder of soldiers who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. But there are also other meaningful ways to honour and support soldiers who put their lives on the line. The Invictus Games that took place in Toronto last September is a quintessential example.
Named Invictus, Latin for “unconquered” or “undefeated,” the event is the brainchild of Prince Harry who joined the British army in 2006, serving in Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East. It’s an annual, international multi-sport event, in which wounded, injured or sick armed forces personnel and veterans take part in sports such as wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing.
In a speech at the opening of the second Games in Orlando last year, Prince Harry said that during his service he realized the “extreme privileges of being a prince” and how he could use that opportunity to help his “military family.”
“When I traveled 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 true cost of war,” he told the audience.
Prince Harry’s Invictus Games is also a way to recognize the psychological toll wreaked on soldiers who suffer the trauma of warfare. “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,” the Prince said. “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.”
The Toronto Invictus Games last September involved 550 competitors from 17 countries participating in 12 different sports. At the closing ceremony Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau said, “These Invictus Games are a celebration of your fearlessness.”
Through the power of sport, Prince Harry’s Invictus Games help those brave soldiers who got wounded in recent battles. But, in a larger sense, they also generate a wider understanding and respect for all soldiers — both past and present. Since World War One, 2.3 million Canadians have served or are serving in uniform. Out of these, more than 117,000 gave their lives.
The Invictus Games is an inspiring event focussed on helping Afghanistan vets and their families, but in essence and spirit, the Games are symbolically a world-size, red poppy.