“I am the master of my fate … I am the captain of my soul.”
Though most of us read William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus in high school, we might not have weighed the importance of those words until we were faced with a seemingly unconquerable challenge. The reality of PTSD and physical setbacks faced by wounded servicemen and women certainly brings them home.
Britain’s Prince Harry must have taken those words to heart when he created the Invictus Games in 2014 as the first-ever international competition for wounded soldiers.
The 2016 games kicked off Sunday evening with an opening ceremony attended by first lady Michelle Obama and featuring “go-get-’em” video challenges from Queen Elizabeth, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and, of course, Prince Harry.
Competitors include 500 wounded and sick military personnel from 14 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands, as they compete in athletic events such as power lifting; swimming; archery; wheelchair basketball, track, tennis and rugby; seated shot put and discus; rowing; and sitting volleyball. It’s all taking place at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, over five days.
The idea is to give the athletes a sense of serving their country again and bonding with members of their team. Those who have left the military get to feel that unique connection once more, and, as some of them have put it, to feel better than they were before. It’s not just about attitude, either — the competition also helps with their ongoing physical rehabilitation.
Former President George W. Bush joined Prince Harry at Disney’s Shades of Green Resort on Sunday for a symposium on ways for society to help heal the wounds of war.
Remember that poem? “Out of the night that covers me, black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.” If that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from someone living with PTSD or recovering from serious injury, I don’t know what does. But it’s a poem about triumph: facing one’s fears and standing strong. That’s what our vets do, and we should champion them.
You might want to re-read that poem from your high school days; perhaps you didn’t know then that William Ernest Henley wrote it as a young man just after having his leg amputated. Also check out this story about several athletes and how they’ve been affected by participating in these games. And let’s all thank Prince Harry for being, well, a prince!
This column originally appeared on WesternJournalism.com here.