Prince Harry Visits Injured Military Members at Hospital in Nigeria: 'You Do Get Better, I Promise'

"The identity of being a soldier doesn’t go away or change because you’re a prince or a duke. He feels that," a pal of Prince Harry's recently told PEOPLE

<p>KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images</p> Prince Harry at the Lightway Academy in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 10, 2024

KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images

Prince Harry at the Lightway Academy in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 10, 2024

Prince Harry is spending time with service personnel during a solo outing in Nigeria.

On Friday, May 10, the Duke of Sussex, 39, visited the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital Kaduna on his first day in Nigeria.

Prince Harry is in West Africa with his wife Meghan Markle at the invitation of the Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff General Christopher Gwabin Musa, the country's highest-ranking military official.

Harry stepped out solo at the hospital, where he met injured service members. King Charles’ son has dedicated much of his public work to veterans following his decade of service in the British Armed Forces and founded the Invictus Games, an international adaptive sports tournament for wounded, injured and sick service personnel as a vehicle for healing, in 2014.

Harry toured approximately six wards, witnessing rows of young men recovering from various injuries, including gunshot wounds, ambushes by Boko Haram and limb loss due to blasts. He shook hands with around 50 soldiers, commenting on what was on the TV in each ward, ranging from a Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich re-run to the news.

Many had been hospitalized for a year or more. Harry encouraged them, saying, “You are going to get better, get back on your feet."

During the visit, 23-year-old Corp Yusef, who had been shot through the knee, spoke with Harry. The Duke inquired about his rehabilitation progress, asking, "Are you going to try for the Invictus Games team? Are you preparing for that?" He then gestured towards his friend David Wiseman, who was present and oversees the international expansion of the Invictus Games, saying, "Don't disappoint us or him! We'll see you there."

As Harry left the ward, Yusef was doing push-ups on the bed to show his motivation to get ready.

After talking to Corporal Iziogo Onyema, 31, who had his right arm reset after a gunshot, Harry reassured him, “You do get better, I promise.”

Harry also interacted with Sgt Emmanuel Oyesigi, 46, who had survived a gunshot that passed through his stomach. Oyesigi recounted being ambushed while on patrol with his colleagues. Harry, impressed by his luck, referred to him as "Mr. Lucky" and called over Wiseman to share the story.

Oyesigi expressed gratitude for Harry's visit, saying, “Anything that can help us is much appreciated. It is good for morale to have him here.”

At the bedside of Private Habu Sadiq, 24, who had suffered from impaired eyesight due to a blast, Harry encouraged him, saying, "Get better, be strong,”

Harry also met 2nd Lt. Princess Owowoh, 23, a recent graduate from Sandhurst military academy, where Harry himself trained. He had written to congratulate her and discuss the Invictus Games Foundation. “He wrote to congratulate me and say that they were coming to Nigeria and about the Invictus Games Foundation,” she says. “The Invictus Games gives hope to the soldiers. It encourages them to walk towards a goal, to achieve something new.”

In the prosthetics and orthotics workshop, Harry inquired about the usage of prosthetics among injured soldiers. General Ndidi Onuchukwu explained that stigma and mindset were barriers to their adoption. Harry emphasized the importance of dispelling misconceptions about prosthetics, saying, "Then you can do sport, they can live their lives with no more pain. Take my leg and replace it with this. That is the mindset."

As he left Harry was given a large mirror decorated with a painting of him and Meghan. “How are we going to get this home?” he quipped.

Nigeria made its debut at the latest cycle of the Invictus Games in Düsseldorf, Germany in September 2023, and Prince Harry traveled to Nigeria following a short stay in the U.K. this week to mark the 10-year anniversary of Invictus. His visit was highlighted by a panel on May 7 and Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral on May 8, where he delivered a reading. PEOPLE understands that Prince Harry invited King Charles, Prince William and Kate Middleton to the event, though they did not attend.

Related: Meghan Markle Has Proud Wife Moment with Prince Harry in Nigeria: ‘You See Why I'm Married to Him?'

<p>Andrew Esiebo/Getty Images for The Archewell Foundation</p> Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet with the Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria at the Defense Headquarters in Abuja on May 10, 2024 in Abuja, Nigeria.

Andrew Esiebo/Getty Images for The Archewell Foundation

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet with the Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria at the Defense Headquarters in Abuja on May 10, 2024 in Abuja, Nigeria.

Speaking to PEOPLE about Prince Harry’s vision for Invictus, his friend, fellow veteran and Invictus Games alumni David Wiseman said, "The identity of being a soldier doesn’t go away or change because you’re a prince or a duke. He feels that. He feels part of this community and we feel him as part of our community. That’s the passion and drives him in, wishing to serve this community."

The Duke of Sussex visited Kaduna Amputee Hospital following a busy first day in Nigeria. Prince Harry and Meghan, 42, are visiting Nigeria for the first time, with an agenda highlighting the Invictus Games following Nigeria’s debut participation in the competition in September 2023. Nigerian Minister of Defense Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Badaru also attended the latest Invictus iteration in Germany and has expressed interest in hosting the games in the future.

Harry and Meghan spent time with the Nigerian team and fans of the squad on the ground at the Invictus Games in Germany. The fun followed Meghan’s revelation on her podcast Archetypes in 2022 of her discovery of her Nigerian heritage through a genealogy test and Harry’s playful comment in his opening remarks there that his wife was rooting for the Nigerian team at Invictus.

<p>AFOLABI SOTUNDE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock</p> Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in Abuja, Nigeria, May 10, 2024.


Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in Abuja, Nigeria, May 10, 2024.

Related: Prince Harry Surprises Children of Fallen Military Personnel Before Leaving the U.K.: 'It Was an Honor'

Prince Harry and Meghan first stepped out in Nigeria at the Lightway Academy, where it was announced that their Archewell Foundation will expand its partnership with the GEANCO Foundation. The existing initiative serving girls and young women in Nigeria with menstrual health products and educational services will now include mental health resources and training for young men and women, elevating a collaboration that began in September 2023.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also delivered inspiring remarks at the inaugural mental health summit, urging young people to stay in tune with their mental health.

"There is no shame to be able to acknowledge that today is a bad day, okay?" Prince Harry said in part. "That you woke up this morning feeling sad, that you were at school, feeling stressed, that you've lost a loved one in your family and you don't know who to turn to or who to speak to. All of these things you may even be led to believe are not for conversation."

Harry added that he and Meghan were "here today to tell you that that is not the case."

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex then moved to a meeting with the Chief of Defense Staff who invited them abroad before Harry traveled to the hospital. The couple honored their host country through style at the second stop, swapping their looks from the school visit to outfits of the colors of the Nigerian flag: white and green. Meghan wore a white pantsuit from Altuzarra, while Harry sported a teal green suit.

Members of the royal family are known to pay homage to the countries they are visiting by dressing in national colors.

Prince Harry and Meghan’s itinerary is busy the next few days, and PEOPLE's chief foreign correspondent Simon Perry is covering the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's various outings.

<p>AP Photo/Sunday Alamba</p>

AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

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On Saturday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will attend a training session for the organization, Nigeria: Unconquered and a reception hosted by the Chief of Defence Staff in honor of military families.

In the afternoon, Meghan will co-host an event of Women in Leadership with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization. The Duchess of Sussex’s describes her as a "feminist and champion of human rights and gender equity, " with her lifelong advocacy for women and girls "a constant thread in her humanitarian and business ventures."

On Sunday, Harry and Meghan will watch a basketball clinic with Giants of Africa, a cultural reception, and attend a polo fundraiser for Nigeria: Unconquered.

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