Andrew Harnik/AP
Susan Keating
October 28, 2015 01:00 PM

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“All right, ladies, Prince Harry is here!”

With those words, First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the royal’s visit Wednesday morning at Fort Belvoir in Virginia alongside Dr. Jill Biden and scores of veterans.

Harry, 31, briefly took the podium, speaking movingly about his two tours in Afghanistan.

“I am in no doubt that my two deployments to Afghanistan changed the direction of my life,” he said, noting that he had flown home from the war zone with the bodies of his fallen comrades.

“Returning to the UK after my first deployment, I shared the flight home with three critically injured British soldiers, all in induced comas, and the body of a Danish soldier, killed in action. It hit me then that this flight was one of many, carrying home men and women whose lives would be changed forever, and some who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

“From that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to help all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service,” he said.

The appearance came two days after he joined brother Prince William and sister-in-law Princess Kate at the glittery premiere of the new James Bond film, Spectre, in London on Monday.

The former British Army captain, who completed two tours in Afghanistan, is in the U.S. for a whirlwind visit to promote his Invictus Games, which are set to take place next May in Orlando.

Harry previously met with Mrs. Obama in June to discuss the Games – which were inspired by the Warrior Games in the U.S. – among other topics.

Prince Harry, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden
Andrew Harnik/AP

After his brief remarks, Harry is expected to meet with wounded warriors at Fort Belvoir, followed by a reception in his honor at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Later in the afternoon, he’ll meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.

Prince Harry hugs Marine Sgt. Roderic Liggens as Michelle Obama speaks with Marine Col. Shane Tomko of Quincy, Ill., as they and Jill Biden tour the USO Warrior and Family Center at the Fort Belvoir military base.
Andrew Harnik/AP

Harry is also expected to attend an adaptive basketball event. Moments before he arrived with Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, two eight-member teams of athletes lined up in their wheelchairs beneath one end of a basketball court. Their referee, also in a wheelchair, traveled the court for pregame preparations.

Participating in a 17-mile stretch of Walking with the Wounded‘s Walk of Britain in September, Harry spoke with PEOPLE about his commitment to veterans.

“What’s important is to recognize that the mental health support for these guys, former servicemen and women, is there,” he told PEOPLE. “They have served their country. They have put their lives on the line for their country.”

Former U.S. Marine Kirstie Ennis participated in Walking with the Wounded alongside Harry and saw his commitment up close.

‘VIDEO: President Obama Jokes That Prince Harry Has ‘Gotten to Know Michelle Very Well

“Prince Harry actually helped me place my dog tag,” Ennis, who leaves memorial tags for her fallen comrades at stops along the walk, told PEOPLE. “He’s so understanding and really appreciated what I was doing. He wanted to be involved and pass on a message to the family.”

For Ennis and others who were injured in the line of duty, the royal’s support of veterans shines a much-needed spotlight.

“I think Prince Harry’s involvement is great,” says Todd Love, a Marine Corps triple amputee who competes in Spartan races. “The Invictus Games, Warrior Games and other similar events are paving the way for wheelchair users and others with disabilities. They help bridge the gap that our injuries have created between us and society in many ways – which also brings people with disabilities closer to be able to solve their problems as a team instead of individually.

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