Why You Need to Check Out the Invictus Games

September 12, 2014

The Invictus Games — an athletic competition for wounded servicemembers — began yesterday in London.  And they’re amazing.

We should all appreciate the effort that went into organizing them.  I certainly do, both as a veteran and as a member of society.  But I hadn’t really stopped to think about the role they play.  Any such effort to allow wounded servicemembers to engage in the types of activities in which their able-bodied peers can is valuable solely by virtue of that goal.  But these games are about much more.

We live in an era in which there are more dedicated people and organizations working to support disabled veterans and their families than ever before.  The Wounded Warrior Project in the United States and its British counterpart, Help for Heroes, are just two of many.  These groups and their staff and volunteers work tirelessly to serve wounded veterans and raise awareness of the challenges they face.  But with that raised awareness, sadly, can come a degree of desensitization.  In the past nearly 14 years, we have seen too many young men and women whose lives were permanently transformed by traumatic injury on the battlefield.  Many of us are measurably less shocked by the sight of a servicemember who has been left blind, missing arms or legs, or living with the effects of serious brain injuries suffered in Iraq or Afghanistan than we were the first time we saw it.  This is not a sign of callousness, but a normal human response to a repeated stimulus.  Which is why the type of undertaking represented by the Invictus Games is so important.  It requires effort to continue to appreciate the sacrifice made by these men and women, and the games help to make that possible.

The games also put on display a type of courage we rarely get to witness.  Just listen to the Invictus Games Anthem, but be prepared for a serious lump in your throat.

There are 98 Americans competing in the games, along with 130 competitors from the UK.  More than 400 total wounded men and women from 13 countries — including six representing Afghanistan — are taking part.  The undertaking to organize and hold the Invictus Games is led by Prince Harry, who is once again is showing a level of respect for the sacrifices made by veterans, not just in the United Kingdom but in the United States and elsewhere, that we should truly appreciate.

Lastly, the rare combination of fierce competition and camaraderie is deeply inspiring, and is only possible in an event such as this one.

You should definitely check it out.

 

John Amble is Managing Editor of War on the Rocks.

 

Photo credit: The U.S Army