Representing the sprit of the wounded warriors’ spirit that chooses to still burn bright despite its injuries, the Invictus Spirit Flame was lit today during a ceremony at the Afghanistan Presidential Palace in Kabul.
“Many Invictus Games competitors served and became ill or injured in Afghanistan. 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,” said Michael Burns, CEO, Invictus Games Toronto 2017.
During Wednesday’s ceremony, 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.
“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. 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,” said Mitic.
The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, were on hand for the ceremony. The ceremony was also attended by the Afghan team for the Invictus Games, their families, Afghan officials and representatives of the Kabul-based diplomatic communities with Games participants.
“In order to stand here in freedom, thousands have lost their lives. Freedom is a product of this collective sacrifice. There is a bond of blood between our soldiers and our peoples, in a cause they have considered to be greater than themselves: it is for the safety of generations to come, and of the world. Invictus represents the triumph of will over adversity,” said President Ghani.
Mirroring the journey many wounded warriors took from injury, to treatment, to the return home and their ensuing road to recovery, the flame will now travel to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany, a key surgical treatment centre for wounded soldiers, including Canadians who were injured in Afghanistan, later this month.
Team Canada competitor retired Cpl. Chris Klodt and Team Canada co-captain Maj. Simon Mailloux will then receive the flame. It will then be returned Canada to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony by a Canadian competitor and his or her 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. 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,” said Gen. (ret’d) Rick Hillier.