Invictus Games ‘celebrate love of country, fellow man’
As a schoolgirl, I was asked to be the MC for Sydney's Anzac Day commemorations at the memorial in Hyde Park.
It was a big deal for a 15-year-old kid from western Sydney, but at the time, that young girl had no idea of what serving your country was all about.
I did not know of anybody in my family who had served (this turned out to be wrong), and had been lucky enough to grow up in a place where war was something you read about in history books.
That day in Hyde Park all those years ago was the beginning of my understanding of sacrifice and service for your country, and in the years after that moment in 1983, I was to learn just how much more there is to it.
The learning came from the incredible view you get as a journalist, from chatting to one of the Rats of Tobruk during an Anzac march in Albury, to standing on the shores of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli marvelling with some fury at what was achieved and lost there, and standing among the war graves there, learning the stories of our Indigenous soldiers for the first time.
There were lessons for me too at Beersheba where the Light Brigade charged, when telling the stories of our servicemen and women from places like East Timor, and also the sadness of broadcasting live ramp ceremonies as Australia's fallen arrived home from Afghanistan.
And now at the Invictus Games, here is another chance to learn more, and to say thank you from those of us who observe it all from the safety of Civvy Street.
Sport is the mechanism for bringing everyone together here. Ian Thorpe, an ambassador for the Games and one of our greatest sportsmen, told me he thinks Invictus gets back the purity of sport.
Thorpe says that for some people sport is about winning, but for others it is just about getting there.
He reckons that is how sport can deliver something for everyone. You do not have to be Thorpie in the pool to enjoy it.
Getting one up on the PE teacher
That is writ large by Aussie competitor and former Army medic Stewart Sherman.
Stewart is competing in archery and wheelchair tennis but for him, the idea of representing Australia in sport is hilarious — "Sucked in PE teacher!" — he sputters out with a giant wry grin.
And there is a whole lot of that wonderful ironic humour here at the Games, juxtaposed against a work history that most of us find hard to fathom.
Stewart says his job as a medic "only got going when things got really bad".
It is hard to watch him describe serving in Afghanistan and picking up a small child's foot in a blue thong, just a foot, knowing that he has three small children of his own.
Stewart is one of the many competitors at these Games with injuries you cannot see.
And here, unlike at a Paralympic Games, you may see people like Stewart competing in a wheelchair.
The other inclusive element of Invictus is that people who become ill or injured during the course of their service — not necessarily on a battlefield — are on the teams too.
Men and women compete together in the team sports. And many competitors are competing in multiple disciplines.
But whether they are taking on one event or six, every competitor I have spoken to here says they are competing for other people as well as themselves.
Coming back from the brink
Rob Saunders, who secured gold for Australia in the sailing, told me his medal is for all the people who have helped him. For his family, for his mates and for the volunteers who helped train our sailing team.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
The team includes people like Davin "Bear" Bretherton, who up until about four months ago had never sailed a boat in his life.
Bear took out silver in the Hansa division and is fairly happy with that, and now has the wheelchair rugby ahead of him.
He served 14 years in the Australian Army, which included a deployment to Somalia.
He is here to celebrate how far he has come, with the support of his family, since the day he tried to kill himself in his garage.
Finding a new way to live
Talk to other competitors from the 18 nations here for the Games and so many of them also say that Invictus is about respect for yourself.
Some say that being part of the Games brings you back to life, gives you a moment to be back with your military family, and helps you realise you can have a life outside it.
And from what I have seen so far, the Invictus Games celebrate love. Love of your country, love of your fellow man, the love of family and friends.
And besides, it is a chance to give a whole bunch of people a giant international hug from all of us Down Under. Who am I to resist that?
Tonight, Dylan Alcott hits the court to battle Dave Hughes in wheelchair tennis. We bring you all the excitement from the indoor rowing.
Former commando Damien Thomlinson visits a school that has fallen in love with the Games. Paralympian and former captain of the Aussie Invictus team, Curtis McGrath, will be with us in the studio. Watch from 8pm on ABC and iView on Invictus Games Today.