How Prince Harry Is Honoring and Aiding Injured Veterans with the Invictus Games
08/10/2014 AT 11:30 AM EDT
The Army captain, 29, who served two tours in 2007 and 2012, has penned a powerful editorial describing the "horrendous" things he witnessed, including children killed "from roadside bombs" and coalition forces lying on the battlefield.
"I had never seen it first-hand," Harry, recalling his time spent in the war zone, writes in The Sunday Times.
"By 'it' I mean the injuries that were being sustained largely due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Loss of life is as tragic and devastating as it gets, but to see young lads – much younger than me – wrapped in plastic and missing limbs, with hundreds of tubes coming out of them, was something I never prepared myself for."
But amidst the devastation, he also saw survival and the need to offer a future – and hope – to the injured servicemen and women returning to civilian life.
Next month, shortly before his 30th birthday, the paralympic-style Invictus Games that he helped create will see 400 personnel from 14 countries compete in London. It is the culmination of a dream the prince had to emulate the United States' Warrior Games on a global scale.
The idea came after meeting competitors during a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2012 and his visit to Colorado last year, where he watched the Warrior Games and instantly became "hooked" on creating an international version.
"It was one of the most incredible and inspiring things I had ever seen ... some of those competing had been lying in a bed no more than eight months earlier, being told they would never walk again," he writes.
But sport is only one element, an "aid to recovery," he says, adding that he's equally passionate about providing stability through employment opportunities for injured veterans.
"Given the grit and determination they have shown to move beyond their injuries, they would be a fantastic addition to any team," he writes.
His Invictus Games, taking place in London on September 10-14, is an opportunity to thank those who have served. "They strive for perfection every day, so don't think for one second that spectators will get anything less than 150 percent effort from the competitors. Lives will be changed for the better over a weekend and not just for the competitors – believe me!"