Speech by the Netherlands Minister of Defence drs. Ank Bijleveld-Schouten at the One-year-to-launch Invictus Games

Your Royal Highness, the Duke of Sussex,

Your Royal Highness, Princess Margriet,

Mayor of The Hague,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s been a pleasure today, to get a preview of one of the most powerful events in the world of Defence & sports... Invictus Games.

An event which you, Your Highness, have established…

…inspired by your own experiences as a military officer, deployed in Afghanistan.

On behalf of the Dutch government, I want to thank you for taking this great initiative.

We’re very proud to be able to host Invictus Games here next year.

2020 is also the year in which we will be celebrating 75 years of freedom.

A year in which we will be even more aware of how much we owe our liberators,

such as the British Sergeant Jeff Haward, the 99 year old ‘Die Hard’ I met last Sunday.

And how much we appreciate our servicemen and women and our veterans…

…such as the man and woman standing beside me,

Joyce van den Waardenburg and Rick Torenstra.

Joyce suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

An injury that’s invisible to most of us.
When I look at Joyce I see a powerful woman.

You’ve overcome so much in your life.

Your daughter Zoey must be so proud!

Because she can see your determination, too.

And the man beside me is Rick.

After a suicide attack  in Afghanistan, he lost an eye.

It took years to find out that he had also suffered a brain injury, which makes him tire more easily.

Swimming, and making new friends in the process, helped.

As you’ve said yourself: sport, especially with likeminded people, is a medicine.

I could stand here all day and tell you stories about men and women like Rick and Joyce.

Stories of struggle and strength, of power and respect.

Of becoming strong again through sports; of finding solidarity with team mates who understand what you’ve been through.

The wonderful thing about Invictus Games is that these stories will be told, and heard, more and more…

…and will hopefully create a more prominent place in society for our servicemen and women, our veterans and our military families.

This is our chance to show that the Netherlands supports veterans from all over the world.

Not only through funding, but also with the enthusiasm of volunteers who will help make this event a success.

I’ve also been told that all Dutch Premier League Football Clubs will unite in August to raise funds for Invictus.
That includes Ajax, who were beaten by Tottenham yesterday evening, I want to congratulate you, Your Highness, on that win…
To get back to the Dutch Premier League Football Clubs: it’s the first time in history that all clubs will come together for one higher goal… no pun intended.

We’ll see more instances of support and enthusiasm for Invictus in the coming months.
This is our chance to come together to show our wounded servicemen and women and our veterans that we are proud of them.

That we thank them for their service. And that we admire their strength and resilience.

As you, Your Highness, have said before, and I quote:

“These men and women are role models. They are who every child should look up to.”

End quote.

As a new father, you of all people know that children need role models.

And as a mother of two adult daughters and as a minister, I know that adults need role models too.

We will find them here in The Hague next year.

I look forward to seeing you all there.
So that together we can cheer our veterans and their families.

And support the power of optimism.  

Thank you.