The Latin word “invictus” means unconquerable or undefeated. It was made famous by poet William Ernest Henley, who wrote a poem with the word as its title and a last line that read, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
So apt is the term as a description for injured veterans medically discharged from service that when Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, launched a tournament for these warriors, there was only one logical name for them: the Invictus Games.
Now, a new documentary released by Netflix, titled “Heart of Invictus,” chronicles how veterans from around the world come together to support one another and push beyond the wounds of war — both physical and mental.
“Not everyone agrees on what qualifies as a just war,” Harry says in the documentary. “But I think we would all agree on the damage that war causes to so many people.”
One of those impacted was Navy Corpsman Gabe George.
After his second deployment, George was coming home from Bible study when he was in a motorcycle accident. He vaguely remembered a car pulling out in front of him, nothing more. When he woke up, his right arm was permanently paralyzed, and his C2 and C5 vertebrae, ribs, collar bone and scapula were broken.
The injuries would push George toward medical retirement.
“It was a long period of me sitting on the couch, trying to find therapy,” he told Military Times. “I was still volunteering and active in churches and other communities trying to help out. Sports was never on my radar.”
Then, in 2020, he decided to undergo an amputation of his damaged arm. His pain, he felt, was prohibitive. And it shows in the documentary, as George attempts to make a meal for his daughter and get ready for bed. Despite a positive attitude, the physical discomfort was obvious.
Today, George manages his physical pain and mindset through sports.
“It wasn’t until almost 10 years after my accident that I was invited to the VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego,” he said. “I remember the first day I tried archery, and I have to use my mouth to shoot.”
Involvement in this veteran community led him to the Invictus Games, where resilience like his fuels the tournament. Today, George is a golfer, archer, and a tennis player. He also rows, sails, scuba dives, and leads a pickleball clinic.
Echoing a sentiment by numerous veterans in the documentary, George says the games taught him that the simple act showing up makes all the difference in the world.
“Once you cross that line and take the chance to push it — to actually show up to an event — you opened doors for yourself,” he said. “Opportunities are there behind the door.”
“Heart of Invictus” is now streaming on Netflix.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.