As the founder of the Invictus Games, the United Kingdom has a unique view of the healing effect of the program for wounded military personnel.
Prince Harry’s popularity may have plummeted among the British people after his high-profile interview with Oprah Winfrey, at the Brunel University sports centre no bad word is being spoken about him in early april. The founder of the Invictus Games is a saving angel for the organization behind Team UK. Without his work, the project would never have taken off.
,”Harry advised me to eat wafers in The Hague,” says Rachel Williamson. The prince, as the ‘team captain’ indicates, regularly put a heart under the belt of the participants in the run-up to the event in the Netherlands. Not as the grandson of Queen Elizabeth, but as a former military man who understands the special culture of the army. With bigotry you will not get a foothold in this world.
Williamson serves as the signboard of the Invictus Games motto. It is no coincidence that ‘I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul’ flaunts yellow and green ink on her forearm. A Netflix camera crew closely follows her and other prominent members of the crew on their way to the postponed games for wounded military personnel. Their story has to draw fellow fates across the line.
The former medic of the RAF, the British Air Force, lost feeling in her arm during a game of rugby, a sport in which she excelled. Her self-confidence disappeared. She retreated into her shell. Thanks to Invictus UK, Williamson was given the opportunity to rehabilitate under the Army flag. Now she acts as a question mark and guide for the team. ,,We are a family that lives with the military ethos.”
In the hall in Uxbridge, a suburb of London, Chef de Missión Hannah Lawton closely follows the penultimate training camp before departure. The thirty-something works for Help for Heroes, the veterans ‘ charity. The entire process is supervised and paid for by Help For Heroes. With coaches of Paralympic level, rehabilitation doctors, psychologists, weekly training camps and top equipment, the selected athletes are presented with a complete package.
“I don’t have enough words to tell you how well Invictus works,” Lawton said. ,”Prince Harry deserves praise. Because of his influence, major parties rallied behind it. And, not unimportant, money became available. But the real work here is done by professionals.”Despite their often tough attitude and confident look, many unprocessed traumas are hidden in the athletes.
Lawton makes it clear that creating a sense of family is therefore crucial. According to her, the emphatic involvement of loved ones on the way to the Invictus Games should not be underestimated. ,,Many servicemen fall into a black hole when they are injured. The structure of the army disappears. On the comrades, with whom they went on missions, they can no longer lean. And at home, no one understands them. Here they learn to share their experiences with “citizens”.
Melanie Waters, ceo of Help for Heroes, laughs cynically when the funding comes up. Only a third of the budget is provided by the government. The rest comes from donations and the growing network of corporate sponsors. ,”Without Prince Harry, they wouldn’t have signed up. Unfortunately, it works that way in the UK. Whoever wants to get something done has to pull up his own pants. Even when it comes to the military.”
Open-minded participants like Lisa Johnston make this easier and easier. Without any hesitation, she reveals her most intimate secrets. The mother of three children suffered Complex Regional Pain Syndrome after an accident on an obstacle course. Her left leg hurt so much, she planned her suicide. ,,If Amazon’s package delivery guy hadn’t called, I wouldn’t have been there.”
Johnston had her limb amputated. Through Invictus, she was given a ‘life purpose’ again. After the Games, the 39-year-old woman starts a job in a military hospital. On Netflix, she wants to inspire dwindling fellow sufferers, who are struggling with PTSD or physical disabilities, to sign up. Chef de Missión Lawton recognizes the suction of word of mouth. ,, The publicity attracts veterans more and more easily. Not only Netflix, but also BBC and ITV channels follow us. You can’t get around Invictus in the UK.”
‘Cake Lady’ Kath Ryan, who has been raising money for Help for Heroes since 2009 with the sale of cake, is staring in a corner. ,”I know how it was before Harry-a darling-founded the Invictus Games. This feels like a fairy tale.”Team Captain Williamson points to the power of continuity. ,,The experience gained is invaluable. I hope we can spread Invictus around the world. It will not be our enthusiasm.”