KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Invictus Spirit Flame was lit today during a moving ceremony at the Afghanistan Presidential Palace in Kabul. The flame will travel to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany later this month before returning to Canada to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, symbolizing the journey of many service members from the battlefield to the Invictus Games – and from injury to recovery.
“Many Invictus Games competitors served and become ill or injured in Afghanistan,” said Michael Burns, CEO, Invictus Games Toronto 2017. “In fact, 14 of the 17 nations participating in the 2017 Invictus Games had service personnel killed or injured there. Afghanistan is now also indelibly woven into the national fabric of Canadian military history. It is fitting that the Invictus Spirit Flame be lit in Kabul.”
Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan and Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, led remarks at the ceremony attended by the Afghan team for the Invictus Games and their families, as well as dozens of Afghan officials and representatives of the Kabul-based diplomatic communities with Games participants. Kenneth Neufeld, Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, and Mr. Burns also spoke.
“In order to stand here in freedom, thousands have lost their lives,” said President Ghani. “Freedom is a product of this collective sacrifice…Invictus represents the triumph of will over adversity.”
“Invictus is the Latin word for ‘unconquered.’ I cannot think of a better way to describe the brave Afghans who continue to fight for their country,” said Gen. Nicholson.
The flame represents the wounded warriors’ spirit that despite injury or illness still burns bright, visible in their journey to and participation in the highly competitive Invictus Games. The flame was passed from Afghan veteran Maj. Ahmad Shah to retired MCpl. Jody Mitic, 20-year Canadian veteran and official ambassador of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017. Mitic was on his third tour overseas, this time in Afghanistan, when he lost both his feet after stepping on a landmine.
“It makes sense that the Invictus Spirit Flame would be lit in Kabul. After all, this is where the lives of so many Canadian soldiers changed dramatically,” said Jody Mitic. “To be a part of an initiative that would provide such vivid context to the realities of service and sacrifice endured by our servicemen and women was an opportunity I could not refuse.”
The Invictus Spirit Flame lighting ceremony is the first in a sequence of events retracing the journey home that many Invictus Games competitors have endured – from injury, to treatment, to the return home and their ensuing road to recovery.
Following Kabul, the flame will travel to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany, a key surgical treatment centre for wounded soldiers, including Canadians who were injured in Afghanistan. There, Team Canada competitor retired Cpl. Chris Klodt and Team Canada co-captain Maj. Simon Mailloux will be on hand to receive the flame. Team Canada members will have the opportunity to thank the medical staff there for saving their lives and returning them home to their families.
The flame’s journey will culminate at the Invictus Games Opening Ceremony in Toronto on September 23, where it will be carried onto the stage by a Canadian competitor accompanied by family. They will then light the ‘I AM’ cauldron, marking the start of the 2017 Invictus Games.
“As a former Chief of Defense Staff, I can’t think of a better way to honour the service and sacrifice made by our soldiers, sailors, airmen, air women, special forces troopers and their families,” said retired Gen. Rick Hillier. “This journey will bring great attention and focus on the issues facing our military, veterans and their families and why the Invictus Games are an important part of their healing and recovery.”
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About the Invictus Games Toronto 2017
The Invictus Games use the power of adaptive sport to help wounded warriors on their journey to recovery. Established by Prince Harry, the inaugural Invictus Games took place in London in September 2014; the second, and equally successful, Games took place in Orlando in May 2016. The Invictus Games Toronto 2017 Organizing Committee is tasked with planning and executing a Games that will feature 550 competitors from 17 nations participating in 12 adaptive sports, including, for the first time, golf. The Invictus Games Toronto 2017 will capture the imagination of the Canadian public, corporations, and governments, as well as soldiers, veterans, and their families. The Invictus Games Toronto 2017 are funded by the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario, City of Toronto as well as Presenting Partner Jaguar Land Rover and other partners and sponsors.