A little boy flying home from the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 held his father’s hand as they sat together on the plane.
The next day the boy asked his mother why people like poppa have service dogs, and she explained to him that war can injure people in their minds the same way it can injure their bodies. The dogs help them to feel better and provide comfort for their anxieties.
“So when I held poppa’s hand on the airplane all the way home from Orlando, I was like a service human?” the boy asked.
Hearing that story passed on to her by a fellow military wife provided Kari Pries with the inspiration she needed for her book We Have Superpowers, co-written with her aunt Kirsten.
Pries’s husband, major Simon Mailloux, who lost his leg in an IED explosion nearly a decade ago in Afghanistan, is the co-captain of Team Canada at the Invictus Games Toronto 2017.
“We are all, as a military community, as a wider community, as human beings, we are all part of something that we need to give support [to],” said Pries, sitting on a couch at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. “We are service humans to those who are struggling.
“This is not just a military story. This is anyone who has gone through a struggle, through a trauma. There is always a community behind them, or there should be.”
While Mailloux began training for his second Invictus Games, Pries wanted to contribute something to aid in the process of rehabilitation that soldiers and families go through, and find a way to better support the children.
“The cool thing about the Games is that bringing the friends and family in, including the children, means they get to see other people with disabilities in a context where it is empowering and really celebrated,” she said. “It’s all out there, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
With the Invictus Games providing the perfect platform to share We Have Superpowers, Pries hopes everyone will leave Toronto with a sense of accomplishment and pride. As she watched her husband compete in the IT2 1,500m on Monday morning, and despite him being a lap behind, the crowd loudly cheered him on to finish his last lap.
It was an emotional moment for Pries.
As the road to recovery is always ongoing, she believes children can play a key role in the process.
“Kids always want to help,” said Pries. “To try and celebrate that was really our goal.”
After reading the book with their four-year-old daughter, Norah, Pries could hear the child singing after putting her to bed, “I’m a superhero, I’ve got superpowers. When you need my help, I’m going to be there.”