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Invictus Games come to a close, US places in team events

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Vucic
  • Air Force News Service
Roughly 26,000 people showed up to give the inaugural Invictus Games an enormous sendoff and pay final respect to all the athletes involved here Sept. 14.

The ceremony proved festive with musical acts, food vendors, remarks from well-known celebrities and a speech by Prince Harry of Wales.

Prince Harry began by reading a letter from Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

“At this closing ceremony of the inaugural Invictus Games, Prince Phillip and I send our heartfelt congratulations to the organizers and supporters of this competition, and most importantly to you men and women of the armed forces who have overcome great adversity just to take part in these games.

“As I have followed the competition over the past four days, I have been deeply moved by your courage, determination and talent. All of you have used the power of sports to enhance your own recovery and to raise wider awareness of the enormous challenges faced by wounded veterans. The success of these games can be measured not by medals won, but by the renewed sense of purpose and confidence in your abilities that you have gained. I send my warmest wishes and congratulations to you all.”

He then went on to give his own impression of the Invictus Games.

“These games have shown a spotlight on the unconquerable character of service men and women and their families; their invictus spirit,” he said. “These games have been about seeing (wounded warriors) sprinting for the finish line, and then turning around to clap the last man in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the (finish line) together, not wanting to come second, but not wanting the other guys too either. These games have shown the very best of human spirit.”

From there, Prince Harry went on to offer a moment of silence for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in battle, and said he hopes those with disabilities who are in the early stages of recovery draw strength from the inaugural Invictus Games.

The USA Team took silver in all three team events: sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

Though competition was fierce throughout each game, the competitors maintained a high level of respect for each other.

“I think it’s (brought) countries closer,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chad Lukkes. “I’ve met friends from every single country out here who, without this experience, I probably would’ve never met.”

The idea for the Invictus Games was created by a visit from Prince Harry of Wales to the annual Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. However, unlike the Warrior Games, which focuses on interservice competition, the Invictus Games focuses on international competition.

The competitors gathered for the festivities as a team for the last time, and celebrated the games with service members from other countries. Though thousands of people enjoyed the concert, the spirit of the contest remained steadfast.

“The closing ceremonies have been absolutely brilliant,” said Australian Defense Force Capt. Simon Bowen. “I cannot believe the amount of effort that has gone into these games.

“The wounded, injured and ill athletes around the world have come to this area and been welcomed righteously. Fantastic, I can’t say any more than that.”

As the ceremony closed, the athletes boarded their respective buses bound for hotels, and prepared for a trip back to their respective places in the world. Though they competed against each other for gold in the games, the nations are allies above all else, and that idea was not lost on anyone.

“The level of camaraderie between all the nations … whether there’s a medal or not is just unbelievable,” said retired Army Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer.