British Embassy Hosts Invictus Games Athletes
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 2, 2014 British Ambassador to the United States Sir Peter Westmacott hosted 20 of America’s wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans who will shortly participate in the Invictus Games to be held in London in September.
The May 30 reception at the British Embassy, attended by athletes and those who are supporting the athletes on their road to these international games, was an expression of the camaraderie both nations share on and off the battlefield, embassy officials said.
Active duty and veteran service members from more than a dozen countries whose troops have fought together recently will participate in the games. The reception was an opportunity to celebrate their achievements, recognize the power of sport as a tool for rehabilitating the wounded, and look forward to the games, officials said.
“The inaugural Invictus Games in London will be a unique celebration of the courage and dedication of members of our armed services who have been wounded serving their country and defending our values,” Westmacott said. “Even better, teams from 12 other allied nations will be joining them. I have had the privilege of joining Prince Harry at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, which inspired the Invictus Games, and of hosting many wounded warriors at my home. So I have heard what they have been through and seen first-hand some of the extraordinary things they’re capable of. We are in for a wonderful Games.”
In February, the British Defense Ministry invited the United States to participate in the Invictus Games. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accepted the invitation on behalf of the United States and joined in supporting the international effort to bring attention to the critical role military adaptive sports plays in the rehabilitation of recovering service members.
"The Invictus Games demonstrate the power of ability over disability and an acknowledgment of all that is good about our profession," Dempsey said. "Our partnership with Great Britain as they host these games and working together with wounded warriors over the past decade, has clearly provided a special camaraderie for all involved."
Military adaptive sports continue to benefit the rehabilitation of wounded, ill, and injured service members, officials said, noting that participation improves their self-image, self-esteem, leadership, and quality of life.
One hundred American active duty and veteran wounded, ill and injured service members will participate in athletics, archery, wheelchair basketball, road cycling, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby, swimming, sitting volleyball and a driving challenge at Invictus. America’s athletes were selected during trials held by each military service and U.S. Special Operations Command earlier this year.
"The Invictus Games will be a great opportunity for our service members to demonstrate their personal courage and determination on the same playing field as their fellow military team members from many nations,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “Their competition is a testimony to the great care they have received within the Military Health System, and it will be an honor to watch them compete."
The Office of Warrior Care Policy spearheads the Defense Department’s program for the rehabilitation of America’s wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans through the Military Adaptive Sports Program. The program provides recreational activities and competitive opportunities to all recovering service members to improve their physical and mental quality of life through the continuum of recovery, rehabilitation and transition.
"I've always been competitive. When your life changes as dramatically as mine, there's a chance you might give up,” said Invictus athlete Air Force Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro, who was injured in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan. “I never let that happen to me, and I never will. Everyone knows if you quit before you start, you're done. I will never let the guys who set that bomb get the satisfaction that they ruined my life."
The Invictus Games, inspired by Prince Harry’s visit to the 2013 American Warrior Games, will bring teams from 13 nations to London. The Sept. 10-14 event is designed to use the power of sports to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider public understanding of the incredible grit, determination, perseverance and contagious positive attitudes of the world’s warriors, officials said.
The event will be held in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park -- the venue for the London 2012 Olympics -- and at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre.