Gen. Nicholson speech opens Afghanistan Team Trials for Invictus Games Toronto 2017

13 May 2017
KABUL (May 13, 2017) — General John Nicholson, commander, Resolute Support Mission, delivers "Check Against Delivery” remarks for the opening ceremony of the Afghanistan team trials for Invictus Games Toronto 2017. 

GEN NICHOLSON: Welcome, Salaam!  I am both proud and humbled to be addressing you.  I want to thank the Canadian Ambassador, senior non-commissioned officers, and most importantly, these wounded warriors.  Thank you also to Command Sergeant-Major Clark and Afghan Command Sergeant-Major Roshan for your superb efforts at making today happen.

It is fitting that you Afghan warriors are here, and we are so happy to host these trials for the Invictus Games.  I wanted to talk to you about the games and what they mean.  Then, I wanted to talk about what you mean to us.

First, I want to thank the Forward Support Battalion from the 38th Infantry Division.  They are here at our camp, organizing this event.  Thank you to all of you from Resolute Support that volunteered.  From the opening ceremony, you can see that this is a first-class event.  What a great job!

What we are doing here right now, at this moment, is a demonstration of our respect and appreciation for you - our respect for your toughness, and dedication.  Of course, you know that there are hundreds of thousands of your comrades, who woke up this morning to provide security to the people of Afghanistan.  I know that they are all here in spirit.

Three years ago, Prince Harry of the United Kingdom created the Invictus Games.  As a member of his royal family, Prince Harry served as a soldier.  He served in Afghanistan twice, once as a forward air controller, and once as a helicopter pilot.

Prince Harry is a soldier.  He chose to serve and he chose to continue to serve.  He saw an opportunity to showcase the sacrifices of ill, wounded, and injured warriors.  These warriors have fought, like you, against terror.  He wanted to remind people of your outstanding spirit, and to stand up for what is right and just in our world.

I am particularly honored to represent the 39 countries that are here now in Resolute Support.  Winning in your competitions today, and you will be the first in order when you enter the stadium in Toronto.  That city is over 10,000 kilometers away.  But as far it is from here, I want to you to know that we will all be with you in spirit as you compete there.  We are warriors together – bound by the choice to serve and steadfast in our spirit to win.

Let me tell you something else:  you have already won by being here today.  The power of sport is rehabilitation itself.

The games in Toronto will be the largest Invictus Games yet.  This September, there will be over 550 competitors from 17 nations.  Thirteen of the 17 nations are ones that have sent soldiers to the fight here in Afghanistan.  For every competitor, there are two volunteers to help support and run the games, as you compete.

This isn’t just about the warriors that will be competing.  This is about the support and celebration of the warrior spirit, a recognition of the sacrifices that you and the other competitors have made.  Thousands of family members and friends will be there, cheering, for who you are and for what you will accomplish on the field.

Invictus is the Latin word for "unconquered.”  I cannot think of a better way to describe you – the brave Afghans who continue to fight for their country.  You represent a better future.  You are ambassadors of your country – you are showing the world that you are undefeated, that Afghanistan is undefeated.  I can tell you right now that the United States is with you, Australia is with you, all of NATO is with you – there are 39 countries here, with you.  Afghanistan, and we in the international community, owe a tremendous debt to its veterans – especially to your martyrs, the disabled, and the injured.

Undefeated – that is the perfect word to describe the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.  You have been tested and you prevailed, right alongside your comrades, your brothers.  We fight with you. The Afghan Army has excelled over the last few years – fighting in a war that would break most armies, yet it continues to spring up with a warrior spirit, fighting for what is right and just, fighting for a better future, for a country, for your fellow comrades – an idea that people deserve safety and security.

We are working hard with your security forces – we are working to defeat terror.  We are working to defeat corruption.  We are working to build leaders that are warriors, like you, based on the merit of their accomplishments.  You have the support of your government, your president, and the whole international community.  Together, we will win.

And what better example of your security forces than you, gathered here.

Later today, the Afghan Army’s senior non-commissioned officers will gather here for a warfighting conference.  They regularly come together to learn from each other – they are your Corps Command Sergeants Major, your general staff sergeants major.  These non-commissioned officers of the Afghan Army are the brightest light for the future of security in Afghanistan.  Your president recognizes it, as do the ministers of defense from NATO – I carry this message to them whenever we meet.

Non-commissioned officers have the warrior spirit in the Afghan Army – there is no doubt.  But we all can learn from your example.  And thank you again to the sergeants major that make this happen.

I want you to know that we are united, as fellow warriors, as comrades, as brothers.  Everyone on this camp knows what you have done and what you continue to do, to set the standard for overcoming adversity – to continue to push through, to compete, to win.  You are heroes.  You are ambassadors.  You are an example of what all combat leaders strive to be. Because if you are brave enough to continue to serve, you are growing and inspiring the next generation of leaders and warriors.  You are showing them what real leaders look like. 

The people of Afghanistan are watching you, starting today with the trials – and they support you.  Soon, you will head to a city half the world away and show them.  You will show them:  Inshallah, Afghans are Invictus.  Unconquered.

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