Today, our heroes packed their bags and readied themselves for the long journey back to the UK. The amazing Kari and Jose from the US Air Force Warrior programme had arranged for a couple of vehicles to pick us up and take us on the journey to Austin, so we could catch our flight.
As always, check in and security was a bit manic, but that was to be expected as logistically getting 19 wounded – and their legs, wheelchairs, med bags etc – through security takes a little longer than it does for most other travellers.
First up was a flight to Dulles, Washington, and then from there we flew back to the UK. Once again all the United Airlines Staff were exceptionally kind and really helpful, which enabled a smooth transition through the airport; by no means an easy feat!
The long flight home, which didn't land until Sunday morning, provided the perfect opportunity to reflect on everything that has happened over the past week, and the impact that has had on the lives of our wounded heroes. An obvious one is that our Sitting Volleyball team won Gold at the competition, and so their confidence has had a massive boost. Far more importantly, our teams had a chance to really train and play together; the competition element is something they’ve not done before, in those teams, so it was great to see the different dynamics grow as the week went on.
Equally important is the fact that this week has given our heroes an amazing chance to train with our allies, forging friendships with our US counterparts that will last a lifetime – until The Invictus Games comes around that is, when I am sure the friendly rivalry will go up a notch, or ten!
For me personally, the greatest moments of this trip were those where our heroes showed time and time again that they really do live beyond injury, refusing to allow their illnesses or injuries dictate their daily lives. Most people will never face in a life time what these guys and girls have faced in a few short years. Yet, they deal with the hand they have been dealt with dignity, grace and a positivity that is downright inspiring.
The beautiful thing about sport is that it really doesn’t care what your injury or illness is it just cares that you give it your everything, which our guys do time and time again. In return, Sport gives our heroes an amazing gift – a chance to truly feel free.
This past week would not have happened without the wonderful, kind and generous people of the UK, people like you! So, please accept a heartfelt thank you for enabling our heroes to experience the benefits of sport along their road to recovery. However, the battle for our heroes continues, so if you would like to do your bit , you can by donating to Help for Heroes Sports Recovery, either, visit http://www.bmycharity.com/h4hsportsrecovery and leave a donation of your choice, or text SPORT to 70900 to donate £5. 100% of the £5 comes to Help for Heroes. (You will be charged £5 plus your standard network rate. Mobile networks helpline: 01494 750 500.
And, if you’ve caught the Invictus spirit this week, why not book tickets to cheer our guys along – http://invictusgames.org/ticket-info/
Finally, this week was made what it was with the effort, determination, kindness and generosity of many people, including but by no means limited to: Our amazing potential competitors and the American athletes; Tony, Kari, Marsha, Jose and Steve at US Air Force Warrior Programme; everyone at San Antonio USO; the wonderful staff of United Airlines and the Dury Plaza Hotel; Rico Roman, Jen Lee Horitius & the guys at Operation Comfort; and Cole for his continual kindness! So, please accept a massive thank you coming together and giving our heroes an experience they will never forget.
Until next time,
If you’d like to read the feature that the Sunday Telegraph ran on six of our amazing Invictus Games hopeful competitors, then please visit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/theroyalfamily/10963519/Prince-Harrys-games-for-the-warrior-wounded.html