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In my 2½ years as British ambassador to the United States, I have frequently had the honor of hosting British and American wounded warriors — both serving and veteran — at my home. I never cease to be moved and amazed by their tales of battlefield bravery and triumph over adversity.
On May 30, we honored an extra-special group: 20 members of the United States team for the inaugural Invictus Games, a sports competition especially for wounded warriors being held at the Olympic Stadium in London in September.
To secure a place on Team USA, these men and women have not only battled back from the trauma of being wounded but also overcome stiff competition from their peers. As you might expect, their personal stories are incredible.
Take Air Force Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro, for example. He was severely burned when his vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and needed over 100 surgical operations, including amputations, to save his life. Undeterred, he re-enlisted in the Air Force in 2010. And he soon will be in London representing his service and his country. He was the life and soul of our party.
The games themselves are the brainchild of Prince Harry. This time last year, I had the privilege of accompanying him on a visit to the Warrior Games in Colorado. He helped open the games, cheered on the British team, and even became a temporary member of the seated volleyball team.
Inspired by what he saw in Colorado, His Royal Highness established something similar in the U.K. So London will soon welcome over 300 personnel from 13 countries whose troops have fought side by side. Among them will be 100 Brits, 100 Americans and a small but highly symbolic contingent of Afghans.
The Invictus Games will celebrate many things, among them the strong links among the countries taking part, the power of sport as a means of rehabilitating the wounded, and the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics.
Most of all, however, the Invictus Games will celebrate the servicemen and -women themselves.
The word “Invictus,” meaning “unconquered,” is a fitting description of these extraordinary athletes. It’s taken from the title of a poem by William Ernest Henley, of which the last verse sums up perfectly the spirit of the Games:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Peter Westmacott has served 40 years in the British Diplomatic Service.