The royal is visiting Washington, D.C., to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and veterans
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“All right, ladies, Prince Harry is here!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.