Prince Harry's Invictus Games: Why 'Thank You for Your Service Is Not Enough'
When Harry "sits in the room, he sits there as a two-time combat veteran," Invictus CEO Ken Fisher tells PEOPLE
The Paralympic-style Games, which Prince Harry first launched in London in 2014, will be held May 8-12 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.
The 500 competitors from 15 nations “are not wounded warriors anymore,” Invictus CEO Ken Fisher tells PEOPLE. “To me, they’re competitors. They’ve come this long road.”
Among those competitors is retired Army Captain Will Reynolds, who is heading the American team. Reynolds, who recently spoke to PEOPLE about how the Games help Harry’s military “brothers and sisters” heal, appears in a powerful new video for the competition.
“Each of these athletes has a different story,” says Fisher, whose family foundation, Fisher House, has helped support more than 277,000 military families since 1990.
In his work building homes for injured service members and their families, “I see them at the beginning of the [recovery] process, when their lives have just been turned upside down.”
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But Invictus represents a key milestone on the road to a new life for many of the athletes. With an eye toward helping service members heal from both the mental and physical wounds of war, the Games are designed to build a community of support.
“The Warrior Ethos is, ‘Leave no comrade behind,’ ” says Fisher. “We in America, and around the world, need to adopt that same philosophy. We can’t let these men and women fall into the cracks. We can’t let them disappear into the shadows. Just saying, ‘Thank you for your service,’ is not enough. What we need to do now is show them, ‘We will help you and we will help your families. We’ve got your back.’ ”
As for British Army veteran Harry, “when he sits in the room, he sits there as a two-time combat veteran,” says Fisher. “He’s been a great partner, as has the United Kingdom. It’s a camaraderie that only our two countries can understand. Especially those who have served together.
“As the Prince said when he announced it, we’d better be ready, because they’re going to bring it. I went to my guys and said, ‘You’re not going to take that, are you?’ ”
The spirit of the Games is “one of those really rare situations where it’s a win-win,” says Fisher. “There’s a friendly rivalry, but there will be no losers. At the end, everyone will take something positive away from these Games.”
As PEOPLE revealed last week, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden – who have long supported the troops through their Joining Forces initiative – will also join Harry in Orlando for the Games.
“With Prince Harry’s leadership, I hope that the world will join us in celebrating these incredible athletes and supporting all our service members, veterans, and their families,” the First Lady told PEOPLE.
Invictus in Orlando “would not have the same meaning without the First Lady and Dr. Biden,” says Fisher. “Having them makes it that much more special.”
The Games, which will feature spectacular opening and closing ceremonies, “will be like four straight Veterans’ Days back-to-back-to-back,” says Fisher. “It will be phenomenal.”