Invisible wounds take spotlight at 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando

- Introduced by former First Lady Laura Bush, a major international power panel kicked off the Invictus Games Orlando 2016.

Two injured war veterans, His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales and President George W. Bush brought attention to the invisible wounds left after battle for the military veterans competing.

Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro, who sat on the panel, knows firsthand.  

“They see my visible wounds, focus on that a lot," he said. "Yes, it’s important to address those, but lots of times they forget what’s going on in my head."

More than 80 percent of Del Toro’s body was left burned by an IED explosion in Afghanistan.  

While his physical wounds are very visible and easy for him to talk about, he says many of his comrades are injured, but no one can see their wounds.

Several suffered traumatic brain Injures and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it’s not widely talked about.

Prince Harry, a veteran himself, says many wounded warriors are often scared of speaking up about invisible wounds and getting help because of the stigma.

“I think the Invictus Games in 2014 in London, whether we were aware of it, it smashed the stigma around physical injuries. And what I really hope is for Orlando, we can do the same for invisible injuries,” Prince Harry said, referring to PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

“If you can deal with it soon enough, quick enough, you can fix the problems," he said. "And if you can’t fix them, you can at least find coping mechanisms. There’s no reason people should be filled with shame after fighting for their countries.”

President George W. Bush also blames part of the stigma on perception.  

“PTS...” Bush paused mid-sentence, “notice I dropped the “D”. We do not view it as a disorder, we view it as an injury,” President Bush told the crowd.
 
Master Sgt. Del Toro is a three-sport athlete participating in the Invictus Games.  

He says these competitions are therapeutic.  

“To be able to use sports to channel that to get me to a place where I don’t worry about anything else than what I’m doing right now, whether power lifting or when I’m shooting air rifles at Olympic training center, it’s a calming place for me,” Del Toro said.

He says it also gives him and other athletes camaraderie and a feeling of comfort, knowing that while they may be competing against each other, at the end of the day, they’re all on the same team - all fighting a similar fight.  

Del Toro says that often times wounds, both visible and invisible, are easiest to be talked about with others who understand the everyday struggles and wounds left by war.

Several doctors, along with top military brass, also spoke about invisible wounds - all in an effort to help Sunday's symposium keep the conversation going throughout the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando.

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