The prince is honored for his work with wounded veterans

By Helin Jung
May 07, 2012 09:10 PM
Susan Walsh/EPA/Landov

Prince Harry has now joined the ranks of Bono and Bill Clinton.

Harry, 27, arrived in Washington, D.C., to receive the 2012 Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank, at its annual awards dinner on Monday. The U2 frontman and former president are among the awards event’s past honorees.

The prince, in his first-ever visit to the U.S. capital, was recognized for his work with military veterans, servicemen and women that he does through the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry. He accepted the award on his brother’s behalf.

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The award’s presenter, General Colin Powell, referred to the prince’s military title, Captain Harry Wales. Powell spoke of the prince’s ability to bring a more youthful, female crowd to the usually staid dinner. “For that, we really, really thank you,” Powell joked.

“Prince Harry has wholeheartedly continued the royal tradition of advocating on behalf of society’s less-fortunate members,” Powell said. “Through his efforts, he restores confidence to those who have been wounded in service to his country.”

Taking the stage in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton in a black tuxedo, Harry began his remarks by laughing and saying, “This isn’t daunting at all.”

“Generally, I obviously don’t feel that I’ve done nearly enough to deserve [this award],” he said, before speaking of his work with wounded veterans. “The very least we owe them is to make sure that they and their brave families have everything they need through the darkest days – and, in time, regain the hope and confidence to flourish again.”

The prince’s presence was unusual even for the especially distinguished crowd inside the ballroom, but it really stirred the crowd of several dozen screaming people gathered outside.

Among the prince’s many local fans was Maria Fera, 19, a student at nearby George Washington University.

“I’m going to cry if I don’t see him,” Fera, who had waited more than three hours, told PEOPLE. “I have to study for finals, but this is a dream for me.”

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Earlier Monday afternoon, Harry joined a group of 125 people, including Dr. Jill Biden, for a reception at British Ambassador Peter Westmacott’s residence. Looking happy and relaxed, the prince personally greeted a group of 30 wounded soldiers, shaking hands and listening to their stories.

In honor of his visit and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Harry dug some dirt to plant a tree – fittingly, a fire-red maple called October glory.