Saturday, May 11, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Britain’s Prince Harry chatted and joked with wounded service members from the United Kingdom on Saturday at the Warrior Games, the U.S. military’s Paralympic-style competition in Colorado.
The prince, a veteran combat helicopter pilot, mingled with the 35-member British team and then sat on a gymnasium floor in a circle of 12 sitting volleyball team members, batting the ball around amid whoops and laughter.
The veterans said Harry’s combat experience made him easy to talk to.
“He knows what it’s like out there,” said British Army Capt. Dave Henson, a member of the volleyball team. “He’s been on the ground and in the air.”
Henson, 28, lost both legs when an improvised bomb exploded in Afghanistan two years ago. He said Harry took a personal interest in the athletes’ recovery and the quality of their health care.
Royal Marine Matthew Hancox, 25, said the prince recognized some wounded veterans he had met before and asked them how they were recovering.
“He’s very down-to-earth,” said Hancox, who was shot in the chest in Afghanistan in 2011.
The prince also planned to attend a volleyball match and the opening ceremonies at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs later Saturday.
The visit to Colorado got underway Friday night when Harry charmed dozens of dignitaries, British expatriates, students and military officers at a cocktail party welcoming him to Colorado. He also joined the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to U.S. Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin, who was celebrating turning 18 at a golf club south of Denver.
A captain in Britain’s Army Air Corps, Harry has deployed to Afghanistan twice, and he wore a brown camouflage uniform and tan combat boots when he met with the British team.
His first deployment, as a forward air controller in 2007-2008, was cut short after 10 weeks when details of his whereabouts were disclosed in the media.
On his second deployment, he was a co-pilot and gunner on an Apache helicopter.
He acknowledged to reporters he had targeted Taliban fighters, and when asked if he had killed anyone, said, “Yeah, so, lots of people have.”
He’s attending the Colorado games because he believes the wounded deserve recognition, according to a statement from St. James’ Palace in London, the official residence of the royal family.
“He seemed very interested in what stage we are all in in terms of our rehabilitation,” said Erica Vey, a veteran of the British Air Force.
Vey, who competes in track and field and shooting, had a leg amputated after an injury she suffered when a cargo plane had to take sudden evasive action.
“He was quite easy to talk to,” she said of the prince.
Harry caused a scandal on his last trip to the U.S. when he was photographed frolicking nude with an unidentified woman in a Las Vegas hotel suite in August.
“It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince,” he said afterward.
The Warrior Games run through Thursday. They also include basketball, shooting, archery, swimming and track and field. About 260 athletes are expected.