Prince Harry made an unannounced appearance at the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games Challenge in San Diego on Monday, 10 years after his first visit to the event inspired him to create the Invictus Games.
The Warrior Games were founded in 2010 to provide a platform to celebrate the mental and physical achievements of wounded veterans. In 2023, the format of the event was adapted to the Warrior Games Challenge, which aims to expand its efforts to expose injured veterans to competitive sports.
Ex-servicemen and women from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and U.S. Special Operations Command compete in the games throughout a range of sporting activities with awards presented to the winning teams.
In a tweet, the United States Army Recovery Care Program revealed that on the closing day of the games it received a royal visitor in Prince Harry, who has lived in California with wife, Meghan Markle, and his young family since 2020.
Alongside an image of the prince sitting with spectators, the tweet was captioned: “When Prince Harry wants to sit with Team Army member Master Sgt Michael Haley and his parents at sitting volleyball! #WarriorGamesChallenge23 #ARCP #SanDiego GOOOOO ARMY!!”
Harry is a veteran himself, having served in the British Army from 2006 until 2015, completing two tours of active duty in Afghanistan during that time.
His attendance at the Warrior Games comes 10 years after his first visit which was made while still serving in the military, and was part of an official visit to the U.S.
Following his trip, the prince was inspired by the way sport was used as a tool to help veterans in their recovery as well as their mental health, and when he returned to Britain decided to found an international annual event based on the same principles. This became the Invictus Games.
Royal biographer and commentator Valentine Low wrote about the prince’s process of founding the Invictus Games in his 2022 book Courtiers.
“The way it came into being typified Harry’s enthusiasm and impetuous nature,” he wrote. “On an official visit to the U.S, he had spent a weekend in Colorado Springs watching the Warrior Games, the American event that gave him the inspiration for Invictus.”
Citing a royal source, Low continued: “‘He thought, ‘This is fantastic, this is brilliant, we’ve got to hijack this and get involved. He made the decision there and then to create something.'”
For its part, Invictus gave credit to the Warrior Games ahead of its first event, held in London in 2014 and attended by Harry as founder, King Charles III and Queen Camilla (when Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall) and Prince William.
On the official Invictus website it states: “On a trip to the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013, HRH The Duke of Sussex saw first-hand how the power of sport can help physically, psychologically and socially those suffering from injuries and illness. He was inspired by his visit and the Invictus Games was born.”
Since 2014 there have been four further events, in Orlando in 2016, Toronto in 2017, Sydney in 2018 and The Netherlands in 2022. The 2023 games will be held in Dusseldorf, Germany in September with the following games to be held in Canada in 2025, integrating winter sports into the programme for the first time.
From the Invictus Games sporting event, Harry founded the Invictus Games Foundation, which plays a role in selecting the host cities and develops and maintains the lasting legacy of the games, including providing wellbeing support for past and present participants.
When Harry left the royal family in 2020, he was required to give up his royal patronages but maintained a number of associations that were not directly associated with the monarchy, including Invictus.
In 2021, the games’ CEO Dominic Reid said: “We are proud to have The Duke of Sussex as our Patron.”
“The Invictus Games was founded by him, it has been built on his ideas and he remains fully committed to both the Games and to the Invictus Games Foundation.
“His military service and experience, combined with his genuine compassion and understanding for those who serve their countries has raised awareness of wounded, injured and sick service personnel and the role they continue to play in society,” he continued.
“His work has had an extraordinary impact on the way in which disability, service, and mental health is viewed around the world. And he has been instrumental in changing the lives of many.”
Newsweek approached representatives of Prince Harry for comment.