Earlier this month, ESPN televised the 2016 Invictus Games, a competitive sporting event for combat-wounded military veterans. The brainchild of Britain’s Prince Harry, the Invictus Games provides an opportunity for active duty service members and veterans to show that despite their injury, they have an overpowering desire to survive and thrive.
From the Invictus Games website, we learn that:
The word “invictus” means “unconquered.” It embodies the fighting spirit of the wounded, ill and injured Service members and what these tenacious men and women can achieve post injury.
The Games highlight perseverance, passion, adversity and commitment. Programming of the competition included stories of the competitors’ injuries and recoveries. The stories showed the effects of combat injuries on the veterans and the veterans’ families. Some profiles were absolutely heartbreaking… others made me weep from inspiration.
As a civilian who works with military service members transitioning to civilian careers, I was touched by what I saw in the Games:
– SUPPORT: There was a palpable sense of support among the competitors, sponsors, family members, hosts and spectators. Teams from different countries competed with a sense of “oneness” that I’ve never seen at a sporting event, even the Olympics. Competitors cheered each other on, congratulated each other on their accomplishments, and reassured each other that showing up and competing was the goal – a medal was just icing on the cake.
I ask myself: How do I show up when I’m part of a team? Do I cheer on my team as well as my competitors with fervor and passion? Or, do I worry about my own performance, missing the joy of celebrating success, even if that success is not my own?
– PASSION: Warriors whose injuries put them in wheelchairs and in prosthetics competed with heart and passion. Their limitations were not limiting. Their resiliency and commitment to “give their all” showed up in the fighting spirit with which they competed in their event. After a few seconds of an event, I found myself forgetting there was a prosthetic leg or wheelchair involved.
I ask myself: Am I more focused on my limitations than what I am capable of? Do I ask myself, “Why me?” when something goes wrong… or do I celebrate, “Why not me?” when considering a challenge that is outside my comfort zone.
– HUMOR: Despite their hardships, the competitors displayed a sense of humor and lightheartedness about their challenges. There were jokes, silliness and fun everywhere on the field and in the pool. The sense of levity displayed by the competitors showed the human side of the effects of war – despite the hardship, veterans are humans with an ability to make the best of a challenging situation.
I ask myself: Do I retain my sense of humor in the face of adversity? Do I focus more on what went wrong, instead of learning what went right and pride myself on my intuitiveness and commitment to push through challenge?
I paid particular attention to the Games because my friend and colleague, Evan Stratton, competed in track and field events and swimming. He medaled in swimming! I’m so proud of his hard work, dedication and achievement.
It was interesting to see Evan’s posts on Facebook after the medal ceremony. He praised the achievements of his fellow warriors. He acknowledged his parents, who’d been by his side through deployment and return. He thanked the online cheering section that rooted for him during the Invictus Games event. He downplayed his own accomplishment in deference to those who surrounded him.
Veterans are taught “service before self.” They are taught not to take credit or seek recognition. They pass accolades to those who serve alongside them. I wonder how different business would be if civilians also practiced a service before self value system.