They’re the military personnel and the athletes of the Invictus Games.
Ivan Wanis-Ruiz knows some of these soldiers and tells their stories on a cross-country flag tour that ends with the Games in Toronto Sept. 23 to 30. They stopped at 14 Wing Greenwood on Sept. 5.
Wanis-Ruiz still gets choked up when he gets on stage and recounts athletes’ personal tragedy and triumph stories – from IED amputations to PTSD and everything in between.
“I think everyone on the Invictus team has heard one of these stories,” he said. The stories he tells on stage? All real stories. “The spirit of the games is really about giving our wounded warriors goals again, to help them move forward in life.”
It was all Prince Harry’s idea.
“I always hoped the Invictus story would continue after their inaugural London Games,” said Harry in a Games brochure. “And having seen so many new people benefit from their journey to the Orlando 2016 Games … I definitely did not want it to end there. I am absolutely delighted to announce that the Invictus Games legacy will continue when Toronto hosts the third Invictus Games in September 2017.”
Invictus, translated from Latin means literally ‘unconquered.’
That theme seems to strike a chord with people, including Wanis-Ruiz.
“It’s something that’s really impacted my life, just on a personal level,” he said. “When you hear the stories not just of adversity but of hope that so many of them have, it’s hard not to be impacted by it and it’s changed my perspective on everything in life.”
Colonel Mike Adamson, 14 Wing commander, told a large crowd of military personnel, their families, and civilians gathered Sept. 5 that the Invictus athletes compete at a very high level, requiring the same intense training and focus needed by every elite competitor.
“However, all have also overcome a great deal of adversity, fighting hard against the limits placed on them due to the various illnesses and injuries they’ve faced during their service to Canada,” he said. “All Invictus Games members share these traits.”
Wanis-Ruiz said as he crosses Canada and meets people in stores or service stations – just random people – and he explains the Games, they not only respond very positively, they get excited about it.
“I think it lets people feel they can help and they can support the wounded warriors,” he said. “I think a lot of times people just don’t feel they have an outlet for it.”
West Kings MLA Leo Glavine applauded the Military Wives Choir that sang at the flag tour event, and noted they are the local representatives at the Games in Toronto and will join others to form a 195-member choir.
“What a time to celebrate hope, survival, and lives that have gained meaning through sport,” said Glavine about the athletes. “It’s going to be a great event for them, a great event for our country, and we join them in the spirit of the Games.”
Flag bearers at the event were Nova Scotia Paralympian Terry Kelly, one of the first three blind athletes to run the five-minute mile, Colonel Adamson, and aviator Arthur White, the RCAF Male Athlete of the Year. Kelly is also Honourary Colonel of 14 Wing.
Major Eric Travis organized the 14 Wing event.
“When it comes the Invictus Games, I’m inspired. I’m motivated by those athletes,” he said. “When I’m laying in bed at five o’clock in the morning, and I’m tired, and my legs hurt, I think there are people out there who have lost their legs. And they’re getting out of bed at five o’clock in the morning. And they are training. And not only are they training, they’re competing at an international level at the Invictus Games. So I say, ‘what excuse do I have?’”
Did you know?
The Invictus Games team is stopping at 22 military bases, 15 legions, and 50 communities in its 37-day cross Canada tour from BC to Newfoundland and Labrador.
By the Numbers
The Invictus Games Sept. 23 to 30
--17 competing nations
-- 550 competitors
-- 12 adaptive sports
-- 9 venues
-- 8 days of competition