Prince Harry knows a thing or two about being a veteran.
He actually just retired from a 10-year full-time military career earlier this year. And it was no publicity stunt. Harry served two combat tours in Afghanistan with the Army Air Corps, and he was even promoted to the rank of captain.
In other words, he can walk the walk.
And he recently showed his support for fellow veterans at Walking with the Wounded’s Walk of Britain.
But he wasn’t there just to cruise around with his slick backpack and his awesome fiery beard.
He was there to get the world talking about mental health.
Walking with the Wounded organizes events every year where a small team of veterans tackles an enormous physical challenge.
Over the past three years, teams of wounded warriors have trekked to both the North Pole and the South Pole, and even climbed portions of Mount Everest, in order to raise funds for injured veterans.
This year, though, they brought the event back home to Britain.
Prince Harry joined a team of six American and British veterans for a portion of their 1,000-mile hike.
The team started in Scotland on Aug. 22 and is set to finish at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 1 a distance of over 1,000 miles.
Along the way, Harry met some pretty amazing people.
Like Stewart Hill, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan. Also on the team of vets is Scott Ransley, who was blinded in his right eye after an explosion from an improvised bomb; Kristie Ennis, whose helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, causing her numerous injuries; Alec Robotham, who suffered severe trauma to his legs and other body parts after a suicide bomb attempt; Matt Fisher, who lost his left leg due to a gunshot wound; and Andrew Bement, who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, in part due a brain injury of his own.
Their wounds run the gamut, from the physical to the emotional. But all of them run deep.
People turned out in droves to support the veterans on their journey. And, of course, to get a glimpse of the Prince.
He even tossed around the football with NFL legend Dan Marino, who was also there to show his support.
Not bad for a Brit!
But this wasn’t just a photo op for Prince Harry. He had an important message to relay about post-combat mental illness.
“It’s a sensitive subject,” he said. “But … we need to talk about it more. Get rid of the stigma.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11%-20% of modern war veterans suffer from some form of PTSD, which can result in disturbing flashbacks, hopelessness, memory problems, trouble sleeping, and it can severely affect relationships with loved ones. It can even be a leading factor in a high number of suicides.
The resources are in place for veterans who need help with these issues, Harry says. They just need to know it’s OK to ask for them.
Prince Harry doesn’t want us to forget … just because we can’t see PTSD or depression doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
And just because a veteran suffers from mental illness, it doesn’t mean they’re not mentally strong.
This six-person team’s going to prove that to the world when they cross the finish line at Buckingham Palace, after 1,000 hard-earned miles.