The British royal and FLOTUS helped kick off the multi-sport event for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
While addressing ceremony attendees and competitors, the prince said that he felt like he was “at home” while looking at the faces of fellow servicemen and women.
“I learned about the importance of teamwork and camaraderie that only military service can teach you,” he said. “I joined the army because for a long time I just wanted to be one of the guys.”
While highlighting the injured men and women competing in the games, Harry also took a moment to highlight those veterans (and non-veterans) who were struggling with invisible injuries like mental health issues, something he touched on before the Games.
“Let’s cheer for the woman who fought through post traumatic stress and let’s celebrate the soldier who was brave enough to get help for his depression … They weren’t too tough to admit that they struggled with mental health.”
After his rousing speech – which was occasionally punctuated by laughs and knowing smiles at those in the audience – Harry handed off to Obama, who thanked the royal for his work with the Games.
“He is truly our Prince Charming isn’t he? He should be proud of himself for his work,” she said.”
During the ceremony, Team USA Captain Will Reynolds talked of how he brought the Invictus flag to the States.
“Now the Invictus Games flag is approaching the stadium,” announcers told the crowd. Two Pave Hawks with two men winched down into the stadium.
It turned out that one of them was Staff Sgt. August O’Niell, an active duty pararescueman, who was injured in Afghanistan, who took it on its final leg of its journey into the stadium accompanied by his companion dog Kai.
The first standing ovation of the night went to the group of wounded, sick and injured ex-servicemen and women, brought together eight weeks ago and taught by British choir master Gareth Malone.
They bear scars both “visible and invisible” Malone told the stadium before they sung “Flesh and Blood” which they wrote themselves about their experiences.
Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush also attended the moving opening ceremony. They conducted a symposium earlier in the day on veteran mental health problems – what the former President called war’s “invisible injuries.”
Both Obama and Bush have been active figures in the Invictus Games alongside Prince Harry since its founding.
The royal opened up to PEOPLE about the event in last week’s cover story, revealing how his own military experience spurred him to create Invictus as a way of supporting his fellow service members.
“You turn up and you think you’re invincible in a super-duper aircraft, but you’re helpless,” he told PEOPLE. “Then I come back and I say, ‘How can I use my name and that spotlight to the best effect?’ ” Creating the Games, he notes, was “almost like a cure for that pain I had back then.”
The Invictus Games include 10 different events like wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and indoor rowing, and are similar to the U.S. Warrior Games. Harry launched the international competition in 2014, and it has since grown to over 500 competitors from 14 countries.
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While performing, Blunt joked about Harry’s heartthrob status while introducing “You’re Beautiful.”
“I want to dedicate this song to Harry because he’s hot but there’s someone here’s who’s just a little bit fitter than him so I’d like to dedicate this song to your First Lady, Michelle Obama this is for you,” he said.
But that wasn’t the end of Blunt’s cheeky jokes. While introducing “Bonfire Heart,” he claimed it was Harry’s “favorite song.”
“He’s a massive James Blunt fan that’s why he shipped me out here, and if you’re just tuning into ESPN, I’m going to play for the next four hours,” Blunt joked.