Yesterday, Prince Harry spent the day in Virginia and Washington DC, with both of the Obamas, championing the Invictus Games and veterans, including mental health.
He joined Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to launch the games, which will be hosted in Orlando.
They took a tour of the facility, and witnessed art therapy and music therapy classes, assisting veterans with recovery. Fort Belvior is a purpose-built United Service Organizations Warrior and Family Center, which supports troops, their families and carers.
Next on the agenda was a wheelchair basketball match, also known as murderball. took place at with FLOTUS, Prince Harry and Dr Jill Biden watching.
In her speech, the First Lady joked with the women of the room that the ginger Prince was here, leading to cheers and giggles, and also that America was going to win lots of medals in the Orlando Invictus Games.
The pair met in the summer at Kensington Palace, as Michelle, in support of Let Girls Learn, to promote education for young girls around the world.
Harry then took the microphone, and thanked Michelle and Dr Biden for championing veterans, and their families’, welfare in the USA.
The Prince then drew on his personal experiences of Army life, saying that his two tours of duty in the east ‘changed the direction of my life’. Harry shared his flight home after his first tour with three injusred soldiers, in induced comas, heading home for treatment, as well as a Danish soldier killed in action.
“It hit me then, that this flight was one of many… From that moment, knew I had the responsibility to help all veterans to lead healthy and dignified lives after service.”
Having called for a more open dialogue about mental health to remove its stigma, the 31-year-old Prince said mental health is ‘one of thebiggest challenges facing veterans today’.
It was after witnessing the 2013 Warrior Games that Harry was inspired to create the Invictus Games, to ‘broaden this [the games] to an international audience’.
The first Invictus Games, in London in Septmeber 2014, was a huge success, with 400 participants from 13 countries and tens of thousands of spectators.
Read the full speech here.
The Prince was updated by the Invictus Games team about the preparations for next year at a board meeting.
Later in the afternoon, Harry visited Michelle’s husband, Barack Obama, at the Oval. It was noted by those there that Prince Henry chose to walk up to the building, instead of having a traditional motorcade to escort hime.
“I’ve had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with so many of his family members, but this is the first time that we had a chance to talk directly,” the President said.
“He has gotten to know Michelle very well, for a range of reasons, but in particular, he’s here to talk about the Invictus Games, an initiative that is bringing together wounded warriors around the world, under the leadership of Prince Harry and others, to make sure that we see not simply the sacrifices they’ve made, but also the incredible contributions, strength and courage they continue to display.”
“And so we are very glad to support the Invictus Games. Michelle and myself are interested in promoting it.”
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) October 28, 2015
Mr Obama personally thanked Harry for his military service: “We want to thank His Royal Highness for his own service in Afghanistan alongside our outstanding American troops.
“It is a testament to the special relationship, the incredible bond that we share between our two countries. And that bond continues into the next generation of leadership that His Royal Highness represents.
“So we’re very grateful for him not only for this specific work, but also for continuing to strengthen the deep, deep bonds between our two countries.”
The conversation was jovial, with both the men teasing one another, Harry joking about stealing the ieda for the games.
“Mr. President, thank you very, very much for hosting us today, and especially in giving the Invictus Games the voice that it so readily deserves,” Harry said.
“We had huge amounts of fun designing the Invictus Games based around stealing the Warrior Games off yourselves and making it international, making it better, and now we’re giving it back to you.”
They also discussed issues facing veterans and the stigma around mental or ‘invisible’ injury.
That evening, Harry attended the Invictus Games reception, at the British Ambassador’s residence in Washington. He gave another speech, this time, in front of a portrait of his grandmother, The Queen.