I am back from 9 days in Orlando, Florida where the Invictus Games were held. These games were created by Prince Harry to support wounded soldiers with physical and invisible wounds. My husband Steve Daniel competed for Team Canada in the indoor rowing event. This is only the second time these Games have occurred, the first ones were held in the UK and the next ones will be held in my home country, Canada!
I wasn't sure what to expect as I flew from Northern, Ontario, with my son Owen. It has been years since I have taken part in anything military and to be honest I was worried it would all be too much, emotionally, that is. But what transpired in these 9 days was a MOVEMENT, a spirit of a people that I will carry with me, always. I have never in my life been so inspired, so moved, and felt so undeniably supported. Often times, we feel isolated as we go through our day. People often stare or look at us with pity, but, at the Invictus Games, we were one of hundreds. We were among family. Almost all of the men and women there were wounded due to their service in their respected countries. All of them have faced trauma and continue to overcome their darkest days. We were united in our pain and our determination to move forward and onward!
Families were acknowledged for their roles in supporting and caring for their wounded loved ones. I have never received this kind of gratitude before and I must admit that it mattered greatly to me. It felt like a celebration for all we had overcome together as a family. A full circle.
Every single volunteer embraced us; from the bus drivers, to the greeters, every single person wearing a yellow shirt beamed with joy and kindness. All of the families and friends stayed at the Coronado Disney Resort and we were also given four Day-Passes to any Disney Park and one Waterpark Pass. (Owen swam with sharks!) Everything was included; food, transportation, clothing and full-day passes to all of the events at the Invictus Games. Multiple singers and performers. A private party at Epcot for friends and families with fireworks! The generosity was overwhelming.
The highlight for me was the Opening Ceremony, where families were seated on the field with the athletes. The tone of the Games was set and the intentions were clear: these Games were about recognizing the wounded warriors and supporting their rehabilitation through sport. I have seen first-hand how sport has helped Steve rehabilitate and move forward in his life after his injury. From the sports field to medical school. I know this works. Prince Harry is changing lives. He is saving lives by encouraging us all to reach out to others who need help.
I can honestly say that being part of these Games has helped me heal and given me a sense of closure too. It also makes me think how I can further push myself and set new goals, and help others do the same. Having just completed the final edits of my book 'The Dependent, A Memoir of Marriage and the Military', it was perfect timing for me to experience these Games. There is so much work to do to help illuminate the challenges facing injured soldiers, veterans and their families. I will always be grateful to Prince Harry for following through on his dream for the Invictus Games and for shining a light on the families who serve their countries. Thank-you for your incredible support Prince Harry and thank-you for your service.
And if all that wasn't enough, Steve won a SILVER medal and Owen and I were overjoyed to have witnessed it! It truly was a magical time in Orlando, one we will cherish forever.
It is only by sharing our stories that we can create bridges. We are in this together.
See you all in Toronto in 2017!