ORLANDO – First lady Michelle Obama and Prince Harry of England praised the military and their families for their contributions to society at the opening of the 2016 Invictus Games in central Florida.
Orlando is hosting the second edition of the only international sports competition for active and retired military personnel who have suffered wounds, injuries, mutilation and trauma, or have disabling diseases.
Some 500 competitors from 15 countries are expected to take part in the Invictus Games, which will be held from Monday to Thursday.
During the opening ceremony at the ESPN sports complex at Walt Disney World, the first lady and Prince Harry were accompanied by celebrities from the sports and entertainment industry, as well as former President George W. Bush.
Prince Harry, the creator of the games, said he felt at home.
“I served alongside soldiers from all over the world. I saw the sacrifices you and your families made to serve your nations. I learned about the importance of teamwork and camaraderie in a way that only military service can teach you,” Prince Harry said.
Obama, for her part, encouraged the soldiers to “have fun” and reiterated her commitment to military families.
During the ceremony, veteran Israel Del Toro Jr., who sustained burns over much of his body while serving in Afghanistan in 2005, shared his story of survival.
The competitors are from Afghanistan, Britain, Germany, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, the Netherlands, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, New Zealand and the United States.
The next edition of the Invictus Games will be held in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 26-30, 2017.