At one point during the Invictus Games flag ceremony on Monday morning in the Crown Village of Ralston, emcee Ivan Wanis-Ruiz asked the lined ranks of British and Canadian soldiers in attendance to raise their hands if they knew anyone who had been killed or wounded in the line of duty.
Nearly everyone present, both soldier and civilian, raised their hands.
It was a powerful moment driving home the importance of what the Invictus Games has been trying to achieve these past three years: To help use the power of sport to bring some sense of healing to wounded soldiers who have experienced life-altering trauma as a result of their military service.
“I am humbled and honoured, as we all are here on the base, that you have stopped here, and have given us the opportunity to show our absolute unfettered support for the Invictus Games,” said CFB Suffield base commander Lt. Col. Mike Onieu during his remarks on Monday.
“Everybody here knows somebody who has been mentally or physically wounded, or killed, in the line of duty … We sincerely support everything that helps our wounded warriors move forward. I think this is one of the most outstanding initiatives we have.”
The Invictus Games flag arrived in Ralston by helicopter near the school soccer field where the ceremony was to take place just after 9 a.m. The flag was carried reverently from the helicopter by Sgt. Fraser White of BATUS and Cpl. Owen Higdon, a Canadian Forces member at CFB Suffield. The flag was then brought to the podium by Medicine Hat adaptive sports athlete Sarah Mickey.
“It’s an absolute honour to be out here today, and representing what the Invictus Games are all about,” Mickey said with a big smile on her face. “It’s amazing.”
British consul general Caroline Saunders made the trip down from Calgary to be in attendance for the flag-raising ceremony. She emphasized the growing strength of the Invictus Games, and its incredible importance to those competing.
“Just as the Invictus Games gives strength to individuals, the games themselves have gone from strength to strength,” she said. “The first games in London in 2014 featured 400 competitors from 13 allied nations, and covered nine adaptive sports. The 2016 games in Orlando had 500 competitors from 14 nations covering 10 sports. And we have just heard that the games in Toronto next month will have 550 competitors from 17 nations competing in 12 adaptive sports.
“I think it is a fantastic initiative from (Invictus Games patron) Prince Harry, and it will continue, and we will see it getting bigger and bigger.”
The Invictus Games kick off in Toronto on Sept. 23, and will be broadcast live on TSN.