News

Prince Harry to vets in Virginia: 'Afghanistan changed the direction of my life'

Prince Harry has long been passionate about supporting injured servicemen and women. He's the patron of the Invictus Games, a multisport event for wounded veterans that he launched in 2014, and just last month, he helped build homes for U.K. vets in need.

But on Wednesday, Harry brought his passion across the pond.

The royal, who retired from the British Army in June, joined First Lady Michelle Obama to visit wounded members of the military at Virginia's Fort Belvoir.

Andrew Harnik / AP
First lady Michelle Obama listens as Britain's Prince Harry speaks to wounded servicemen and veterans at Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia Wednesday.

"I am in no doubt that my two deployments to Afghanistan changed the direction of my life," Harry said while at Fort Belvoir. "There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war. The experiences can be stark and long lasting."

Reuters
Britain's Prince Harry and first lady Michelle Obama during a basketball game played by wounded warriors at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, on Wednesday.

The prince said that his calling came after sharing a flight home with his injured compatriots during his first deployment.

"From that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service," he explained.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, was also on hand as Harry toured the USO Warrior and Family Center, a facility that offers assistance to injured or ill troops and those who care for them.

Andrew Harnik / AP
Britain's Prince Harry, first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden tour the USO Warrior and Family Center at the Fort Belvoir military base, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, at Fort Belvoir, Va. The event is being held in support of the Invictus Games Orlando 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

"To him, our wounded warriors aren't just a distant cause," the first lady told a crowd gathered there. "To him, they're brothers and sisters in arms."

The prince also visited Washington later in the day to attend a board meeting for the Invictus Games, which will be held in Orlando next year, and he met with the president.

During his stop at the base, the prince, the first lady and Biden sat courtside at a wheelchair basketball game.

Reuters
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and Britain's Prince Harry (C) watch a basketball game during a tour of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia October 28, 2015 REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The sport is one of the events at the Paralympic-style games.

During a speech to the athletes, Harry threw out a friendly challenge to his American competitors.

"You better bring it, USA," he said.

Reuters
Harry and the first lady share a laugh while sitting courtside at a wheelchair basketball game.

MORE: Prince Harry in a hard hat? See what tough work the royals are tackling

Army Specialist Sydney Davis, who battles post-traumatic stress disorder, stressed the importance of sports therapy and the Invictus Games when she spoke to TODAY.

Andrew Harnik / AP
The prince greets Marine Col. Shane Tomko of Quincy, Ill. as he tours the USO Warrior and Family Center at the Fort Belvoir.

"It pulls you out of that hole that you're in, and you start to see your depression lessen," Davis said.

MORE: Prince Harry brings Invictus Games for wounded vets to America

Andrew Harnik / AP
Britain's Prince Harry tours the USO Warrior and Family Center at the Fort Belvoir military base, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 in Fort Belvoir, Va. The event is being held in support of the Invictus Games Orlando 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It was a short visit for Harry, who arrived in the U.S. Tuesday night and will depart Wednesday evening.

The Invictus Games Orlando 2016 will take place from May 8 through 12.

Follow Ree Hines on Twitter and Google+.

TOP