Harry ‘back with his own people’ at Invictus Games, says war veteran friend

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sit in the crowd at the Invictus Games (Aaron Chown/PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sit in the crowd at the Invictus Games (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Duke of Sussex is “back with his own people” when he is at the Invictus Games, according to a war veteran friend.

Harry and wife Meghan spent Easter Sunday morning at the athletics track and were in the front row for the sitting volleyball as the first full day of competition began in The Hague.

The couple watched the action next to Jaco Van Gass – a Paralympian gold medallist and former Invictus competitor who suffered life-changing injuries with the British Army.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex seemed happy and relaxed during their visit to the games on Sunday (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex seemed happy and relaxed during their visit to the games on Sunday (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Van Gass left his home in South Africa to pursue a military career 16 years ago, but was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with the Parachute Regiment and lost his left arm at the elbow.

He met Harry in 2011 when the duke joined the record-breaking team of wounded soldiers he was part of that trekked unsupported to the North Pole.

The 35-year-old said it was “amazing” to see Harry and Meghan, adding that it was “wonderful” to catch up with them and they were “friendly as ever”.

He said Harry told him he is having a “really, really good time”.

Mr Van Gass said: “Invictus is his family, basically.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex hug Team United Kingdom competitor Lisa Johnston (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex hug Team United Kingdom competitor Lisa Johnston (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

“There’s so many familiar faces that he’s not seen in a while, and again to all the nations, just to catch up with them again.

“He’s back with his own people, he’s back in an environment that he’s so natural in and that he cares about.

“I think that’s the most important thing – this great depth of care that he has for the games.”

Harry, who served in the British Army for a decade, was stripped of his honorary military roles post-Megxit.

It was the Army which offered him his first taste of life away from being a royal.

The couple sat with Jaco Van Gass, next to Harry, at the Invictus Games (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
The couple sat with Jaco Van Gass, next to Harry, at the Invictus Games (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

He admitted after serving in Afghanistan for a second time in 2012 that he was more comfortable being Captain Wales than Prince Harry.

“I’ve always been like that,” he has said. “My father’s always trying to remind me about who I am and stuff like that. But it’s very easy to forget about who I am when I am in the Army.”

Meanwhile, Mr Van Gass said he also spoke briefly with Meghan.

“She’s having a good time,” he said. “She’s in really good form and really enjoying all the events and seeing… it’s so inspirational.

“Even just the people on the volleyball court at the moment, you see all kinds of different injuries, and just seeing them being active, smiles on their faces, comradery, all the teams are very friendly with each other.”

Speaking again about Harry, Mr Van Gass said: “He’s just very down to earth, humble, and he’s just true to his word, he’s a very nice guy.

The Sussexes could be seen holding hands for much of their visit (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
The Sussexes could be seen holding hands for much of their visit (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

“It’s amazing to think of his profile and who he is and how relaxed you can be around him.”

Harry and Meghan looked relaxed during their visit to the games on Sunday and held hands for much of the time.

They chatted with competitors at the athletics track, many of whom were keen to have pictures taken with them.

One of the competitors who spoke to Meghan was Alex Wilson from Team USA.

He said Harry and Meghan are “awesome”, and talking about his conversation with the duchess, he said: “She asked me about my family and about where I was from.”

Mr Wilson said Meghan had met his son and daughter recently.

The couple met US competitors while at the athletics track (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
The couple met US competitors while at the athletics track (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

“Just talking about family and what they mean to us,” he said of their conversation.

On Sunday afternoon, Harry went to watch archery without Meghan.

A camera crew filming for a Netflix documentary called Heart Of Invictus – a series from Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Productions following people competing at the event – has been seen close to the couple since they arrived at the games on Friday.

On both Saturday and Sunday, a drone could be seen hovering above events that the couple were at.

The pair signed a multimillion-pound deal with streaming giant Netflix in 2020.

Harry founded the Invictus Games to aid the rehabilitation of injured or sick military personnel and veterans from across the globe, by giving them the challenge of competing in sporting events similar to the Paralympics.

Harry and Meghan made their first public appearance together in Europe since quitting as senior working royals more than two years ago when they attended a reception at the games on Friday.

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