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Invictus Games for Wounded Warriors Begin Saturday

Army veteran RJ Anderson sinks a free throw at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y., Sept. 19, 2017, as the U.S. wheelchair basketball team trains for the 2017 Invictus Games. (DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg)
Army veteran RJ Anderson sinks a free throw at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y., Sept. 19, 2017, as the U.S. wheelchair basketball team trains for the 2017 Invictus Games. (DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg)

The U.S. team for the Invictus Games, which start Saturday in Toronto, will be led by currently serving amputees from the Air Force and Marine Corps. It also includes a former Army staff sergeant wounded in Iraq who is four months pregnant.

Britain's Prince Henry of Wales, better known as Prince Harry, is to preside at the opening of the Paralympics-style games for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans that he first organized in 2014.

This year's games run through Sept. 30 and will have 550 competitors from 17 nations, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

They will participate in 12 adaptive sports, including archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair rugby and the latest addition to the sports lineup -- golf.

"The 2017 Invictus Games embody the spirit of every member of the United States Armed Forces," said Tony Kurta, who is performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

"They inspire us with their strength, resilience and personal courage," he said in a statement.

The team captain of the 90-member U.S. contingent is Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, who lost her right leg in a boating accident but returned to the cockpit last year as an HC-130J rescue squadron pilot.

The team's co-captain is Marine Sgt. Ivan Sears, who lost both legs in 2010 to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He earned gold in the 100-, 200-, 400-, and 1,500-meter wheelchair races at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla.

Earlier this week in Toronto, Prince Harry met former Army Staff Sgt. Randi Gavell, a member of the U.S. team, at the True Patriot Love Symposium, an annual meeting that brings together representatives from nonprofit foundations, business and government on ways to help military veterans and their families.

She told Prince Harry she is four months pregnant but had her doctor's permission to compete in several events, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported.

Gavell, who was medically retired from the Army in 2010 after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a 2006 truck bomb blast in Iraq, said, "'The first question I asked my doctor was if I could still go to Canada. I'll take it easy, I will be careful.

"It's a girl, and we're pretty excited," she said, adding she hopes to introduce Prince Harry to the baby at next year's games.

The British royal organized the Invictus Games after visiting the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado.

After serving 10 years in the British Army, including two tours in Afghanistan, Prince Harry has made service members and their families his signature issue.

At the closing ceremonies for last year's games, he told the competitors, "Never stop fighting and do all you can to lift up everyone around you. I'll see you in Toronto."

As a sideline to the games, there is the buzz on whether Prince Harry's rumored girlfriend, TV actress Meghan Markle, will attend.

The Invictus Games were named for the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, which includes the lines, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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