Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice! An emotional rollercoaster of a vivid example on the true meaning of sacrifices for the world freedom through sportsmanship has been truly a privilege shared by some. Being there, witnessing those smiles, many tears, numerous hugs and the cheers with the unconditional support for the courage of their conviction to represent the world. But what inspired me most were the thoughts of their sacrifices and journey to make it to the starting line, to take to the field or to dive into that pool, motivated by the goal of giving their all – That is the spirit of those true warriors. Those 4 days, 10 sports, 13 support dogs, 14 nations, 149 events, 410 medals, 485 competitors, a couple thousand friends and family members, hundreds of hours of grueling competition reminds me of those invisible wounds. It exemplified how sport activities had become a stimulus—a motivator as well as the best and greatest medication in fighting those invisible wounds as life goes with the battles of those demons, PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) along with Post Traumatic Sleep Disorder. It also aids in the holistic healing throughout the recovery and rehabilitation process as a “new normal”—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and socially.
I, too, am a casualty of the Vietnam Conflict and the author of “The Disabled Veteran’s Story” who had the privilege of being able to appreciate and write about the stories on adjusting after returning home, meeting citizens from the countries we fought years after. The irony of the conversation speaks to the fact that 90% or more of the game participants were injured in either Afghanistan or Iraq—what a true mental adjustment! The Afghan team of eight competitors, with eight dreams, ready and eager to compete; but were without a coach. In the spirit of the games, the Australian team stepped up and offered their support as brothers and sisters who sacrificed as well for world peace. A very noble act, those who have walked that mile understand. Another emotional and electrifying moment was shared by the entire stadium with a standing ovation when the Afghan female bilateral leg amputee struggled very hard to cross the finish line and everyone cheered her on to the end. The standing ovation did not stop there. During the 400 meter finals an American female runner passed the Italian runner a couple yards before the finish line but fell face down, inches before the finish line–the Italian runner came back after she crossed the finish line and helped the American runner roll across the finish line for the silver medal. One of the competitors said, these games have not only changed my life, it gave me a purpose to continue living. This is after she had pushed another competitor across the finish line so the competitor would finish second and win a silver medal for her country. The ambivalence of emotions I experienced watching the conviction of an Indoor Rowing competitor with one arm, a Power Lifter with both legs amputated, swimmers with their legs amputated or legally blind competitors with their guide dogs. I only learned after watching two remarkable star performers (MVP) on both the US Gold Medal winning teams–Wheelchair Basketball and Sitting Volleyball–had both legs amputated and were missing total usage of one of their hands.
From competition to competition, teams showed the world that the Invictus Games are not about the medals or the accolades; rather, the Games are about standing hand-in-hand with service men and women from around the globe with one shared vision – to show the true meaning of sacrifices as they represent their country and live their Invictus Story. For that reason, the Land Rover “Above and Beyond” was awarded to the Sitting Volleyball team from Georgia, who won a Bronze medal in the competition, after learning the game on Skype. The team was honored for their inspiring example of the Invictus Spirit, as not only competitors but also as teammates. Wow! Wow! What a privilege to have had the precious opportunity to appreciate the deeper side of true sacrifices. Those four days at the Invictus Games solidified my belief; the writing about the sacrifices of our veterans and their families is bigger than me and perhaps a higher power. Deep inside each and every one of us—there is a story. Don’t miss the privilege of reading about sacrifices by so many.
The stories are available for purchase through the website, www.miguelreece.com, as well as Amazon.com or an e-book from Kindle and BarnesandNoble.com. In Europe the book is also available through www.wordery.com. You will understand as well as appreciate why the disabled veterans, their parents, spouses, family members and caretakers urged me not to allow their stories to die or those chapters in our history to be forgotten.