First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a photo line prior to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Invictus Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, May 8, 2016.

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May 8–May 9, 2016 I experienced moments that will stay with me throughout my entire lifetime. Honored as part of the Presidential Delegation at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, I had a chance to attend the Opening Ceremony as well as some of the Games!

The 2016 Presidential Delegation consisted of me, along with four others who have made significant contributions to the military community. First Lady Obama’s Assistant, as well as a Protocol Officer, helped me navigate the entire process, prior to and throughout the Opening Ceremony and the Games!

The Opening Ceremony was exhilarating, and the atmosphere was charged with anticipation about what games and events the athletes would engage in. Over 15 nations, and 500 competitors, were represented, and First Lady Obama, Prince Harry, and Morgan Freeman were among the prestigious speakers to open the grand affair. It’s hard to decide which events were the most memorable: being transported to the Games via the limo provided by the White House, VIP access into the Games, or meeting and being pictured with First Lady Obama?

I was both honored and excited to watch the athletes perform.  At the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Invictus Games, Prince Harry  reminded us all that the athletes in these events had been wounded physically, mentally or cognitively, with many of them living with amputations of  limbs, as well as with the invisible wounds of war, such as Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.

First Lady Michelle Obama opened the 2016 Invictus Games to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Joining Forces. This program celebrates the initiatives that her office has implemented to highlight the many sacrifices that military caregivers across the US make on behalf of Wounded Warriors. I was especially honored and proud to be able to meet the First Lady and to have been hugged and greeted so warmly by her. She complimented me about how beautiful I looked, and I responded that she always looked beautiful!

What an awesome moment for me, as a military caregiver, to have been invited to attend such a prestigious affair as a representative of the president of our great nation, as a contributor to the military caregiver community. This honor is momentous for me, as are the efforts of the First Lady, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and so many others; their support has been inspiring and motivating.

I am also deeply moved by her support for military families. In her introduction to the Opening Ceremony, she promised to continue to support caregivers and military families, and “will keep working for military families as long as she is alive.”

And, if the Opening Ceremonies were not enough, the Presidential Delegation went on the following day to attend some of the Games and witness first-hand the resilience of the wounded, ill and injured athletes in action.  I was humbled by their powerful display of motivation, determination, and impressive skills. The events allow them the opportunity to stretch themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally and to establish close and abiding friendships. It’s a extraordinary set of events for all of them and for those in the audience as well.

ESPN Wide World Sports Center

ESPN Wide World Sports Center

In one event for example, Power Lifting, athletes lifted great amounts of weight—an incredible feat that requires extraordinary power, strength, determination, stamina, and mental focus. Each participant appeared to be exhilarated by their accomplishments, and each was greatly honored to be awarded medals in person by Prince Harry.  These were heartfelt gestures that moved everyone in the audience and the athletes themselves.

2016 Invictus Games, Orlando -Power Lifting Competition

2016 Invictus Games, Orlando – Power Lifting Competition

Military caregivers, please know that these efforts on our behalf are being undertaken within prominent and high places, and that much progress has already been achieved. Many people are concerned about our well-being  and are working to ensure that our concerns are noted and taken into consideration. Most importantly, please also know that our sacrifices are not forgotten …

Call To Action: Caregivers, have you witnessed these Games, and if so, what was your impression? Did you notice  that your loved one was inspired by the resilience of the wounded warriors who participated?


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