Story by Lt. j.g. Egdanis Torres-Sierra, Resolute Support Public Affairs
Created by Afghanistan veteran, Prince Harry of Wales, the Invictus Games is an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick military personnel. The Afghan team of seven competitors earned their spots and a ticket to Toronto by beating out 51 other competitors.
The ceremony began with Afghanistan’s national anthem, as the competitors and their coaches looked on with pride.
“Invictus is the Latin word for unconquered. I cannot think of a better way to describe the brave Afghans who fight every day for their country,” said Gen. John W. Nicholson, Resolute Support commander. “They represent a better future. They – and you, gathered here today – are showing the world that you are undefeated, that Afghanistan is undefeated.”
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani echoed the general’s words and standing at the podium, looking at the wounded warriors, and raised his voice to state with conviction that the lighting of the torch’s flame represents triumph in the face of adversity. He called them the heroes of Afghanistan.
“Invictus is truly the right word because our 3,000 years of history is summed up in one word: Invictus,” Ghani said. “You have absorbed the pain of this nation so generations to come can think about hope, think about opportunities, and think about freedom.”
The president also described the event and the spirit of the competitors as a loud message to the people of Afghanistan, and to the enemies of freedom.
“You can wound us,” Ghani stated. “But you will never overcome us. You will never break us.”
The ceremony continued with Maj. (Ret.) Ahmad-Shah, Afghan National Army battalion commander and his family carrying the torch into the Presidential Palace. They walked past a formation of Afghan soldiers, lined up at the position of attention and paying their respects.
“I am here because even if I do not have my hands, I can still do something for my country. I am here to encourage other soldiers to never lose their confidence if they get injured,” Ahmad said. “I am not alone, and they will not be alone in this fight.”
The lighting of the torch and the flame itself represents the energy and spirit of the wounded warriors who, despite injury or illness, persevere – as demonstrated by their journey to the Invictus Games. The torch will now follow the same path as Canadian soldiers who were wounded in Afghanistan, stopping at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and then on to Canada to light the cauldron at the games.
The games are scheduled to begin Sept. 23 in Toronto.
L. J. De Rothschild