By Gian Ellis-Gannell
Editor in Chief
I was recently overjoyed when my father informed me that he had been invited to the UNSW Invictus Cocktail party – including tickets for the Closing Ceremony. He was also given two additional guest invitations. Excited at the opportunity to go, I expressed this to those sitting around me at the time I received the news, however was rudely shocked: No one at the table had any idea what the Invictus Games were, let alone that Sydney was hosting them.
It seemed alien to me- that somehow people had not heard of this event, despite its significance. Despite the fact that it was the main reason for not only David Beckhams, but also the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s visit to Sydney. My friends had heard of the visits of these celebrities and royals, but not the games. And the same thing occurred to my mother at work, with her colleagues being politely excited about her explanation of where she was going on Saturday night, but later admitting that they ‘didn’t have a clue’ what she was excited about.
Perhaps I, among others within the Defence community, are more aware than the majority when it comes to military events. However, the Invictus Games are so much more than that. To me, the games are incredibly and undeniably important in recognising the sacrifice that military personnel make in the defence of their nations. And more than that, it celebrates the obstacles that they have overcome in the name of Queen, country and mateship.
The Invictus Games are an invention of his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex (also known as Prince Harry). After serving in the British military himself, the Duke of Sussex discovered the multitude of issues that face veterans. Injuries both physical and mental can be debilitating for ex-servicemen and women, ruining relationships, taking independence and stripping self-esteem.
The Invictus Games are therefore inspired by the Warrior Games in the USA, which is a nationwide sporting event for American ex service people. These games were created to provide a goal for veterans to work towards. With many in physical therapy, it can be extremely difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel. Being in and out of hospital is never easy, however the games provided that hope and light. Accomplishing inhuman feats: swimming hundreds of meters without arms, running a marathon without legs, these warriors set an example for all of us. The Invictus Games took this idea one step further and provided an even greater motivation in the form of competing for your country. Invictus made the celebration of veterans an international event with over 50 countries. No nation is excluded, and ex-servicemen of Afghanistan can stand side by side with Australians and Americans with the common respect that they each made a sacrifice for their nation.
Ultimately, these games have encouraged the rehabilitation of our soldiers and warriors, providing them with a new lease on life. Therefore, when the next games roll around in the Netherlands, 2020, every Australian should be watching. In truth, we all should have been watching in person as our soldiers showed the strength of the human spirit this year, but, if our veterans understand a concept after the Invictus Games, it’s second chances. Let’s not waste this opportunity.