Prince Harry opened up about his tour of duty in Afghanistan and on how it was the impetus for establishing the Invictus Games for wounded soldiers in a rare and exclusive interview for U.S. television.
The face-to-face interview with ABC ‘GMA’ co-anchor Robin Roberts, was conducted in the UK at both Kensington Palace and on location in Aldershot, England at a military facility where members of Team Great Britain ere training for the Invictus Games which he founded in 2014 for wounded veterans. Much like the Paralympic Games, the annual competition encompasses a variety of sports including track and field, swimming, cycling among others.
Prince Harry opened up about his 10 years in the British Army — where he eventually rose to the rank of Apache helicopter commander — and how it it was the impetus for him to commit to such advocacy. He said, “Ten years in the Army was the best escape that I’ve ever had, an escape from all sorts of intrusion. But I also felt as though I was really achieving something. I felt as though I was part of a team.”
He spoke about his tour of duty in Afghanistan, in 2008, which was cut short — after just 10 weeks — when his identity was revealed.
He said, “‘I had done everything I could to get out there. All I wanted to do was prove that I had a certain set of skills, let’s say, flying an Apache helicopter, for instance, rather than just being Prince Harry.”
As for being forced to leave, Prince Harry said, “Literally being plucked out of my team, there was an element of me thinking ‘I’m an officer, I’m leaving my soldiers and it’s not my own decision.'”
Continuing, he added, “I was broken. I didn’t know what was going to happen to them and then suddenly, I find myself on a plane that’s delayed because a Danish soldier’s coffin was being put onto the plane.”
Prince Harry then explained how the evacuation was a life-changing experience for him as he saw numerous servicemen who had suffered grave injuries in battle. He said, “While I’m sitting there, I look through the curtain in the front, and there’s three of our lads wrapped up in plastic, missing limbs. One of the guys clutching a little test tube or whatever it is of shrapnel that had been removed from his head and he was in a coma, clutching this thing.”
He went on to say, “And I suddenly thought to myself, ‘People don’t get to see this.’ I never in those ten weeks, I never saw the injury part. I only heard about it. That’s how it all started for me.'”
He spoke about his advocacy work for wounded war veterans and how his military experience had prepared him, saying, “‘All its done over those ten years is given me this amazing amount of knowledge and experience where I am now perfectly positioned to be their voice and champion their cause.”
He added, “There’s a reason why I’ve been in the Army and I would never have left the Army and not done this role. These people are role models and they need to be. It needs to be celebrated more amongst society.”
As for the Invictus Games and the participants, “I get inspired by them. How could you not be inspired by them, just by seeing what they do.”
He went on to say of them, “‘No one wants sympathy. All they want is an opportunity to prove themselves. That’s what this is all about.”
This year’s Invictus Games will begin in May and held in the U.S. in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World and broadcast on ESPN. And beyond this year the tradition continues, as Prince Harry has announced via Twitter in a video — which you can see below — that the 2017 Invictus Games will be held in Toronto.
For those who have thought of Prince Harry as tabloid and gossip fodder, as one who makes headlines for late night exploits and a series of girlfriends, his commitment to the games and to the cause should prove quite the eye opener.
You can see the full interview of Prince Harry as he talks about the Invictus Games and his tour of duty in Afghanistan that inspired them in the video below.
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 16, 2016
Pictures: PR Photos