Prince Harry Opens Up on Life-Changing Afghanistan Mission, Inspiration for Invictus Games

The prince will lead the second Invictus Games in May in Orland, Florida.

March 17, 2016, 8:16 AM

— -- Prince Harry spent 10 years in the British Army serving as Captain Wales and now he's taken on an important mission, supporting injured members of the military and wounded veterans through their recovery.

With the second Invictus Games kicking off in May, the hundreds of service members and veterans from around the world participating will be showcasing their strengths in new ways.

"Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts caught up with Prince Harry at a military facility in Aldershot, England, where Team Great Britain was training for the Invictus Games' swimming competition. She also visited with the fifth-in-line to the British throne at Kensington Palace to discuss just how important this latest mission is to the royal.

“No one wants sympathy. All they want is an opportunity to prove themselves, and that's what this is all about," a visibly moved Prince Harry, 31, told Roberts, of the Invictus Games, which he launched in London in 2014.

The Prince is active on a number of charitable fronts but working with our heroes is at the top of the agenda for this spring. The second Invictus Games will take place May 8-12 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida.

Injured servicemen and women from around the world will compete in everything from cycling, wheelchair basketball and rugby to sitting volleyball and swimming.

"Some of these guys should be dead," he said. "Never before have we had so many amputees survive from such unbelievably traumatic injuries."

"I'm now lucky enough to watch someone who should be dead run the 100 meters," Harry continued. "You want a definition of inspiration? That's probably it."

Prince Harry's Army Inspiration

Prince Harry joined the British Army in May 2005 and rose to the rank of Apache helicopter commander before leaving the Army last year. The British Defense Ministry named Harry the best front-seat pilot, or co-pilot gunner, in February 2012 from his class of more than 20 fellow Apache helicopter pilots.

“Ten years in the Army was the best escape that I've ever had, an escape from all sorts of intrusion," Prince Harry said of his decade-long service. “But I also felt as though I was really achieving something. I felt as though I was part of a team."

"All I wanted to do was to prove to other people that I had a certain set of skills," he said. "All it's done over those 10 years is given me this amazing amount of knowledge and experience where I am now perfectly positioned to be [service members] voice and champion their cause.”

Prince Harry has done precisely just that, becoming an advocate for the wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. He is their biggest supporter, working in a personal recovery unit.

The royal has said he was inspired to start the Invictus Games after attending the Colorado Warrior Games with British service members in Colorado Springs in 2013.

Invictus means unconquered. The goal of the Invictus Games is to use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and gain a wider understanding and respect for just what service members are struggling with.

“I get inspired by them," Prince Harry said of servicemen and women. "How could you not be inspired by them, just by seeing what they do."

For Harry, he says there was a significant moment after his first deployment to Afghanistan that changed his life. The royal served two tours of duty in Afghanistan during his time in the British Army.

“I've been extracted after 10 weeks of my first tour in Afghanistan. I'd done everything I could to get out there. After 10 weeks, I got extracted," Harry said. "Literally, being plucked out of my team and, yes, there was an element of me thinking, 'I'm an officer. I'm leaving my soldiers and it's not my own decision.'"

"I was broken," Prince Harry told Roberts. "I didn't know what was going to happen to them and then suddenly I find myself on a plane that's delayed because a Danish soldier's coffin was being put onto the plane."

He continued: "Then, while I'm sitting there, I look through the curtain in the front, and there's three of our lads wrapped up in plastic, missing limbs.”

Prince Harry told Roberts he was immediately struck by the visceral images he witnessed.

“One of the guys clutching a little test tube or whatever it is of shrapnel that had been removed from his head and he was in a coma, clutching this thing," Harry recalled. "And I suddenly thought to myself, 'People don't get to see this.' I never in those 10 weeks, I never saw the injury part. I only heard about it."

"That's how it all started for me," he said of his outreach to veterans. "There's a reason why I've been in the Army and I would never have left the Army and not done this role. These people are role models and they need to be. It needs to be celebrated more amongst society.”

'Invisible Injuries'

It’s not just the physical injuries of servicemen and women that concern Prince Harry. He has also vowed to raise awareness of the "invisible injuries" that many servicemen and women are confronted with after leaving the front line.

These injuries -- mainly mental illness -- are just as powerful and debilitating to those who are struggling to get back on their feet.

“The invisible injuries ... the stigma surrounding it is a massive issue," Harry said. "I want to reemphasize the point to people that it's not a ticking time bomb."

"Not everybody that leaves [war], in fact, a very small number of people that leave the forces are diagnosed with PTS," he said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder. "PTS, for argument's sake, as opposed to the 'D,' because the disorder piece I think is, it just doesn't, the wording doesn't work for me."

“The psychological illnesses can be fixed if sorted out early enough," Harry continued. "We've got to keep the issue at the forefront of people's minds. The simplest of things. Just talking about it makes all the difference."

Meeting Wounded Warriors

Prince Harry’s personal investment in the Invictus Games is obvious. While visiting rhe military facility in Aldershot with Roberts, Harry met with Mike Goody, the captain of the British swimming team that will race at the Invictus Games in Orlando.

Goody is a former RAF AirCraftsman who was injured when his patrol was hit by an IED. He lost his left leg and suffered post-traumatic stress, but came back to take win five swimming medals at the 2014 Invictus Games.

"In all honesty, Prince Harry's been absolute legend, and literally, he was everywhere," Goody said of Harry at the 2014 Games. "You know, we couldn't get rid of him if we tried. He was literally boosting everything, pumping everything, getting everyone going, really encouraging, drumming up support."

"When someone's doing that, and as much as he was, it's really difficult not to get behind him," Goody told Roberts. "I think that's why, you know, as the Invictus Games -- the inaugural games -- came up, it just exploded into what it became and, obviously, it's just been growing and growing since.”

It is with the same infectious enthusiasm described by Goody that Prince Harry continues to support wounded warriors around the globe. It is, for now, the most important mission of his life.

“I'm not asking for it to become really boring that we constantly go on about our veterans," Prince Harry said. "But, I'm sorry, anybody who serves our country and puts their life on the line, and then can bring themselves back from an injury like that deserves everything from every single one of us.”

The 2016 Invictus Games will be broadcast on ESPN. Disney is the parent company of ESPN and ABC News.

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