Prince Harry was this week awarded the Atlantic Council’s 2012 Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership in recognition of his charitable and humanitarian work supporting servicemen and women.
Prince Harry used the occasion to pay tribute to wounded war veterans and all those who work tirelessly to help them with the transition to civilian life. Prince Harry accepted the award on behalf of his brother The Duke of Cambridge, The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry and all the charities on both sides of the Atlantic which seek to support members of the military and their families.
General Colin Powell introduced His Royal Highness before presenting him with the Award.
Before receiving the award, Prince Harry attended a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence in Washington to meet nine American and 16 British disabled athletes who had taken part in the Warrior Games. Speakers at the reception included Dr. Jill Biden and Charlie Huebner, Chief of US Paralympics, and members of the US Olympic Committee and US Paralympics.
The Prince also planted a tree at the British Ambassador’s Residence, following the reception, to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
“It is with great humility that I accept this award,” said Prince Harry. "Genuinely, I don’t feel that I have done nearly enough to deserve it. But I am immensely grateful to Chairman of the Atlantic Council, Senator Chuck Hagel, the President Fred Kempe, and the Board of the Atlantic Council for according me this great honour.
“If I may, I would like to accept the award on behalf of my brother, William, our Foundation, all those on both sides of the Atlantic who work so tirelessly to support our wounded veterans, but particularly for the guys. This is their award.
“It would be wrong of me to speak for these heroes, but not presumptuous of me to pay tribute to them: so many of our Servicemen and women have made the ultimate sacrifice; so many lives have been lost and so many changed forever by the wounds that they have suffered in the course of their duties. They have paid a terrible price to keep us safe and free.
“The very least we owe them is to make sure that they and their brave families have everything they need through the darkest days – and, in time, regain the hope and confidence to flourish again. For these selfless people, it is after the guns have fallen silent, the din of battle quietened, that the real fight begins – a fight that may last for the rest of their lives.
“We will all continue to support our armed forces in defence of freedom at home and abroad, but sooner or later the coverage of them in the media will diminish or cease as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan. They will no longer be at the forefront of our minds. But the injuries left from a 7.62 round, an IED, watching a fellow comrade injured or killed—these are experiences that remain with you for life, both physically and mentally.
“We must be there for our Servicemen and women, and their families, standing shoulder to shoulder with them. British and American forces train together, fight together and, tragically, some are wounded and some die together. It makes perfect sense to me, therefore, that we should wherever possible and appropriate work together, by pooling our expertise and experience, to heal and support the wounded veterans of both our Nations – truly, brothers and sisters-in-arms.
“It was a privilege for me to fight alongside members of the United States armed forces. Their professionalism and dedication to the values we share and hold dear are inspirational. I would personally like to congratulate Marine Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia, who is to receive an award tonight recognising the United States Armed Forces’ peerless contribution to the defence of freedom.
“Using our fortunate position, William and I have sought to raise awareness of the challenges confronting our wounded, to help mobilise support and resources for them.
“We have tried to do what we can to ensure that Servicemen and women – and their families – leaving the military will do so with purpose, with hope and with confidence. Whether in their working environments or in the wider community, these fine people – examples to us all – have an invaluable contribution to make.
“Last year, I struggled to keep up with the four British soldiers whom I joined for part of their expedition to walk to the North Pole. Each of these men had recently been gravely wounded on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Theirs was the fastest team to reach the Pole that season.
“At this very moment, another team of our wounded are returning from Mount Everest. Sadly, I understand that they have been frustrated from reaching the summit by the unusually warm weather, which brings particularly dangerous conditions. However, the mere fact that they are up there on that fearsome peak, I find totally amazing.
“Ladies and gentlemen, these people – ours and yours – are extraordinary. That is why I feel so humble in accepting this wonderful honour from you tonight. I congratulate whole-heartedly my fellow award-winners, but most of all I salute our wounded veterans.”