The Invictus Games: Empowering Warriors Through Sports
The Invictus Games recently wrapped up its fifth edition in The Hague, Netherlands, and Team U.S. featured 37 warriors registered with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
These WWP warriors were among the 500 competitors from 20 nations competing in 10 different sports: athletics, powerlifting, archery, indoor rowing, cycling, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, sitting volleyball, swimming, and a driving challenge. Team U.S. was comprised of service members and veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations Command. Nearly half were registered warriors with WWP. Some WWP warriors included Army veteran Beth King, Navy veteran Gabriel George, Coast Guard veteran Jacob Cox, and many more who grew their skills in modified athletic opportunities through WWP’s Adaptive Sports, Physical Health and Wellness, and Soldier Ride® programs.
“Being a part of adaptive sports – you’re back in it,” Cox shared. “You have a purpose again. You have a goal. You have something to work toward. You may not have a military number, but you have a number on your jersey, and now you’re a part of a team again.”
The Power of Sports
The Invictus Games are about so much more than the competition.
The word “Invictus” means “unconquered” in Latin. It’s a term that represents the fighting spirit of wounded, injured, and ill servicemen and women worldwide. It also embodies what these brave men and women can achieve during their recovery journey. Their service and sacrifice come at a high cost and their wounds, visible or invisible, are something they must learn to live with every day, but they do not define them. It’s out of their will and motivation to keep going that this international adaptative sports competition was born in 2014.
During the 2013 Department of Defense Warrior Games in the United States, the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, witnessed firsthand how the power of sport can aid injured servicemen and women physically, mentally, and emotionally. With a passion for the military community, Prince Harry instantly knew he wanted to create an event like this at the international level. In 2014, the inaugural Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured, and sick service members, began in London.
By participating in sports, the military community can find healing, connection, and purpose again. Most of the time, these warriors hear ‘no’ because of their injuries, whether visible, like having to use a wheelchair, or invisible, like living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By participating in modified athletic opportunities, like Invictus Games, they are empowered to unleash their highest potential while making lifelong connections with others like them.
“I am not just playing sports,” Beth said. “I am bettering myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Adaptive sports gave me a community of people who understand that the struggle is real. It gave me a place where I could be honest about the struggle and have people who motivate me to keep going despite that struggle.”
According to WWP’s latest Annual Warrior Survey, the likelihood of experiencing PTSD symptoms is 57% lower among WWP warriors who’ve maintained the social support of their military friends. When it comes to helping our bravest heal, human connection is one of the most important factors, and it can be found through sports. It’s a platform that allows servicemen and women to come together, no matter their skill level or branch of service. With their inner strength and resiliency, they reinvent themselves, overcome, and inspire.
“People tell me they are inspired by watching me overcome,” Gabriel said. “As humans, we tend to repeat what we see. We share what makes us feel good — it catches fire and spreads. I find that feeling with recreational and competitive adaptive sports, and I hope to continue motivating and inspiring other overcomers everywhere.”
Invictus Games Photo Credit: DVIDS - Staff Sgt. Charles Plouffe
Contact: — Krissty Andaur - Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.760.6957