What I Saw In The Invictus Games Lives In Our Veterans

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U.S. Army veteran and captain of the U.S. Invictus team Will Reynolds races to a finish line during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, May 11, 2016.
DoD photo by Edward Joseph Hersom II

In 2014, Elizabeth Marks, a former U.S. Army sergeant, was traveling to the United Kingdom to compete in swimming events at the inaugural Invictus Games when she went into respiratory distress and nearly died. She was airlifted to a hospital in England, where medical staff saved her life. This year, Marks was able to compete in the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, and when Prince Harry, who founded the games, hung yet another gold medal around her neck, she promptly returned it to him, asking him to give it to the hospital staff members who saved her life two years ago.



Prince Harry congratulates U.S. Invictus team basketball captain and retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Anthony McDaniel on winning a gold medal in the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, May 12, 2016.DoD photo by E. Joseph Hersom

Marks is a perfect example of what the Invictus Games stand for. In Latin, the word “invictus” means “unconquered.” The games are a week-long event where more than 500 wounded military warriors from 15 nations compete in 10 different events. The competitors are service men and women who put their lives on the line and suffered life-changing injuries. By competing together, they demonstrate the unique camaraderie of all military members and the unconquerable nature of the collective human spirit. They have overcome pain and injury, have been tested and challenged, and have triumphed.

It was an honor to serve as a Champion for this year’s Invictus Games. It was also incredibly moving to meet these elite athletes and their families and to see some of the highest-ranking leaders from the Pentagon including U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, U.S. Army Undersecretary Patrick Murphy, and U.S. Air Force Secretary Debbie James come out to support them, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush, and Prince Harry.

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Each event was a reminder that these brave men and women, both active duty and veteran, represent the greatest part of us all — the part that will not be defeated. We know that the vast majority of our veterans are strengthened by their military service, bringing home with them the values instilled by that service: honor, duty, leadership, respect, integrity, determination. Some sustain physical injuries that are visible. But for others, their injuries are often difficult to see: post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and even the difficulty of returning to civilian life after duty. Such invisible wounds can take a profound toll.

The resiliency on display at the Invictus Games is not unique among veterans. At Justice For Vets, we believe that every veteran deserves the opportunity for treatment and restoration, which is why we advocate for the expansion of veterans treatment courts, an alternative to incarceration for veterans who have come into contact with the justice system because of substance use disorders, mental health issues, and/or trauma. When veterans treatment courts connect these men and women to the benefits and treatment they have earned, they thrive and emerge from the program unbowed, unafraid, committed to continuing to serve their country, their community, their families, and their friends. Like the athletes of the Invictus Games, they have an unconquerable soul, adapting and persisting through incredibly challenging circumstances, triumphant against the odds.


Army Veteran Stefan LeRoy competes in a bicycle race during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, May 9, 2016.DoD News photo by EJ Hersom

I can think of no better way for me to thank our active duty and veteran military members for their extraordinary service and sacrifice than by supporting programs, organizations, and other activities like the Invictus Games that support and encourage them and their families. I encourage you to learn more about our veterans and the sacrifice they and their families make for this country. Support your local veterans service organizations, and advocate for the programs that work for them.

Together, we can overcome both visible and invisible wounds, and watch our warriors triumph once again, becoming the masters of their fate and the captains of their souls.

Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.

The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.

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Arizona Army National Guard soldiers with the 160th and 159th Financial Management Support Detachments qualify with the M249 squad automatic weapon at the Florence Military Reservation firing range on March 8, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Laura Bauer)

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When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.

"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.

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"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."

Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."

Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."

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If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.

The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.

But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.

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And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.

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