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“To me she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women,” Prince Harry writes

By Erin Hill
December 13, 2016 09:00 AM
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Credit: Alex Menendez/ Getty Images for Invictus Games

Prince Harry has made special connections with veterans all over the world since launching his Paralympic-style Invictus Games in 2014.

And the royal left this year’s event with a very important mission: to deliver swimmer Elizabeth Marks’ gold medal to the hospital staff that saved her.

Six months later, Harry is ready to deliver another special message — this time to the U.S. Army Staff Sargeant, who has been selected as one of espnW’s IMPACT25 honorees, a list comprised of the top 25 people who made the greatest impact for women’s sports this past year.

The royal has written a moving essay about Marks, who became ill with a serious lung condition and had to be put into an induced coma just before the 2014 Invictus Games in London.

“To me she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women,” Harry writes in an exclusive sneak peek of the essay. “Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.”

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Credit: Chris Jackson - WPA Pool /Getty Images for Invictus

Marks, who joined the Army in 2008 as a combat medic, suffered bilateral hip injuries during a tour in Iraq in 2010. She turned to sports to help her recover and was chosen to compete in the 2014 Invictus Games. But after she arrived in London, she began to have trouble breaking and was placed in a medically-induced coma.

“We all feared the worst, but the team at Cambridge’s Papworth Hospital helped reoxygenate her body using an external lung machine and brought her back,” Harry writes.

After winning her fourth swimming gold medal at this year’s Invictus Games, Marks returned the medal to Prince Harry and asked him to deliver it to England’s Papworth Hospital as a thank you for saving her life.

“I’m grateful to him for putting on this event and supporting the soldiers,” Marks told PEOPLE at the Invictus Games in May. “He’s a very nice, honest, good human being who is here for one purpose: to show the world that soldiers can move forward from their injuries, and to support them. He uses his fame and his influence to support soldiers.”

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Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Invictus

“I’d talked to Prince Harry previously about finding a way to get that medal to Papworth,” she continued. “I thought the one that was presented to me by him would mean the most. I wanted to thank them for saving my life.”

The IMPACT25 Woman of the Year will be announced Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. ET.