Prince Harry met President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during a visit to the US to promote the Invictus Games today ( 28 October). The games, based on the Warrior Games which took place in Colorado in 2013, are designed for wounded service personnel. The first event took place in London last year. The Prince and the President's wife joined forces to launch the 2016 Invictus Games.
The royal began his tour with Mrs Obama to meet injured service personnel at the USO Warrior and Family Centre at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, close to Washington. He was given a tour of the Virginia base's rehabilitation facilities and met several of the soldiers and airmen being supported there, after suffering life-altering injuries in the line of duty. The Prince arrived at the sports centre to cheers from the assembled gathering while Mrs Obama, joined by Dr Jill Biden, vice-president Joe Biden's wife, high-fived the servicemen and women as she entered.
While the young royal clearly needed no introduction, alluding to his heartthrob status Mrs Obama joked: "All right ladies, Prince Harry is here - don't pretend you didn't notice!"
Prince Harry and Mrs Obama were enthralled as they watched some of the servicemen take to the court for a demonstration of their sporting skills. They also joined an art therapy class for veterans and visited a music therapy room at the facility.
Meeting organisers of the games at the British ambassador's residence in Washington DC, in an emotive speech, Prince Harry spoke of the need to highlight the invisible injuries suffered by wounded veterans and change perceptions about disability.
Sporting a wristband with the words 'I Am The Master', and an I AM badge from the poem Invictus, the Prince, a veteran of the war against the Taliban, said: "One thing we have to talk about more is breaking down these barriers around so-called invisible injuries, like post-traumatic stress, just as we have for physical injuries like the loss of a limb.
"This is a topic I know the First Lady and Dr. Biden are working hard to highlight so that people are no longer afraid to ask for help. This fear of coming forward, as a result of the stigma which surrounds mental health, is one of the greatest challenges veterans face," he explained.
"People from all walks of life struggle with issues like post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression, not just veterans. We have to help them all to get the support they need, without fear of being judged or discriminated against. Not only is it ok to talk about it, we have to talk about it."
The Prince drew from his personal experience of being in combat. "I joined the army in 2005," he said. "It was a time when service men and women and their families both in the US and the U.K. were making sacrifices for their countries that had not been experienced for generations. In combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, military personnel were setting examples for everyone about the values of service, duty, and dedication.
"So too did their partners and children back home in the cities, towns, and villages of our nations. I am in no doubt that my two deployments to Afghanistan changed the direction of my life. There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war. The experiences can be stark and long lasting. Returning to the UK after my first deployment, I shared the flight home with three critically-injured British soldiers, all in induced comas, and the body of a Danish soldier, killed in action. It hit me then that this flight was one of many, carrying home men and women whose lives would be changed forever, and some who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
"From that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to help all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service."
Later that afternoon Prince Harry had an informal audience with President Obama at the Oval Office of the White House for the first time BBC News reports. Praising the Prince for his work for the Invictus Games Mr Obama said: "I'd like to welcome Prince Harry his Royal Highness here to the Oval office." he explained that with the royal visit "(our) bond continues to the next generation of leadership."