Prince Harry believes his stint in the military “made [him] who [he] is today”.
The 37-year-old royal – who spent a decade in the Army and undertook two tours of Afghanistan – will always be “grateful” for his time in the Forces but he admitted he is still haunted by some of the things he saw.
Speaking at the 2021 Salute to Freedom gala – which recognises “extraordinary leadership” and honours service personnel – in New York City on Wednesday (10.11.21) night, he said: “My experience in the military made me who I am today, and I will always be grateful for the people I got to serve with — wherever in the world we were. But in war, you also see and experience things you hope no one else has to. These stay with us, sometimes like a slideshow of images.”
Harry – who walked the red carpet at the Intrepid Museum with his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex – spoke about the mental health impact of being in the military and the adjustment struggles some veterans can face when they return to civilian life.
He said: “For too long, invisible injuries were treated as just that —invisible — and were destined to be swept under the rug at the risk of shame, guilt, or just a lack of understanding.
“For years, we – and our families – orient our entire lives around the mission, the duty, the commitment, and yes — the hurry up and wait. And when we return, we long for the same feelings and contributions: self-purpose, focus, service to others, and being part of a team.
“As many of us see it, service isn’t loud. Service is what happens in the quiet and when people aren’t looking. It’s about how we take care of each other every day.
“It’s about the camaraderie we share…the laughs, the comfort, the pain, the challenge, and yes, the banter.”
The prince created his Invictus Games “to honour the legacy of those who have given so much”, as well as to show “that the men and women who have experienced service injuries, as well as their families, are the strongest people in the world…and they deserve a platform to be seen, a platform to be recognized, and a platform to be truly celebrated.”
Harry then went to welcome the winners of the inaugural Intrepid Valor Award, describing them as being “part of an everlasting bond”.
He added: “You are part of the team of teams. And we will always have your backs. You are not alone.”