England's Prince Harry mingled with Olympians including Missy Franklin, British business executives, students and military officers before cheering on wounded servicemen and women at the Warrior Games in the U.S. later this weekend.
The guest list at Friday's Colorado reception included John Minge, president of BP America, British ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott and Governor John Hickenlooper. Besides Franklin, who was celebrating her 18th birthday, other Olympians included Curt Tomaseviz and swimmer Jessica Long.
More than 200 wounded servicemen and women from the U.S. and Britain will participate in the games. From there it was on to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the 2013 Warrior Games. He's to spend Saturday at the games, where more than 200 American and British veterans wounded in service are competing.
He plans another outing with wounded military personnel later this year when he participates in the South Pole Allied Challenge. Teams from Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States will race 335 kilometres to the pole.
Sombre day in Washington
The prince came to Colorado after a sombre day in Washington. He saluted U.S. war dead at Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid a wreath at the grave of soldier Michael L. Stansbery Jr., 21, of Mount Juliet, Tenn. He left a note reading: "To my comrades-in-arms of the United States of America, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom. Captain Harry Wales."
Stansbery, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, was killed July 30, 2010, by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol in Afghanistan. His grave was chosen randomly for the prince's honor, among thousands marking the resting places of the fallen from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The prince is a British Army captain who has served twice in Afghanistan. He recently spent 20 weeks there as co-pilot gunner on an Apache attack helicopter and has been a big supporter of charities to help wounded service members.
Prince visits wounded troops
Elizabeth Jennings of Arlington was in Section 60 tending to the grave of her brother-in-law and unaware that Prince Harry was just a few feet away until she was told. "I think it's really great that he's paying his respects," said Jennings, whose brother-in-law Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Jonas Kelsall was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. "They're all brothers-in-arms."
After placing the wreath, Harry, in ceremonial Army uniform with a light-blue beret, saluted for several seconds, then walked through the rest of the section, pausing at the stones occasionally to read them.
On one knee, Harry placed flowers on Kennedy's tombstone near the eternal flame, then stood at attention and bowed his head. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago this November.
The prince also paid his respects at the grave of the British officer, Major Gen. Orde Wingate, who created the Chindits, troops who fought behind enemy lines against the Japanese in World War II, developing guerrilla tactics familiar in today's special forces. He died in the crash of a U.S. bomber in 1944. His remains and those of other crash victims, most American, were later moved to Arlington.
At the Tomb of the Unknowns, representing the unidentified dead of all American wars, hundreds gathered as the U.S. Army band, Pershing's Own, played the national anthems of the U.S. and Britain, and the prince stepped forward to place a wreath of poppies. Harry then saluted as the "The Last Post" sounded. His handwritten note on the wreath read: "In grateful memory of all those who have given their lives in the cause of freedom."
Harry capped his Washington trip with a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, seeing the latest prosthetic technology and chatting with wounded warriors.
The prince offered comradeship and empathy to the wounded at Walter Reed, where officials introduced him to a high-tech treadmill that projects a virtual world on a screen and is used to help patients with posture, balance and pain.
"We've got nothing like this back in the U.K." he said. "You guys as Americans are used to the technology; we are always behind."
He sat on a bed and chatted with Staff Sgt. Tim Payne, 30, of Montana, injured by an IED in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. "We talked about how I got injured and that I like swimming," Payne said after. "I told him I swim 4,000 meters a day and someday will swim the English Channel. Harry said, 'That's a crazy idea."'
Harry raises profile of mother's cause
The prince opened his visit Thursday with a tour of an exhibition in Congress about land-mine removal, and later spoke in support of the HALO Trust, a charity his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales had held dear.
"My mother, who believed passionately in this cause, would be proud of my association with HALO ," he said. "In her special way, she adopted it as her own. She would join me — along with all of you, I'm sure — in praising HALO for the amazing work that it has done over the past quarter-century, and in hoping that one day soon its humanitarian work will be done."
'My mother, who believed passionately in this cause, would be proud of my association with HALO.'—Prince Harry
Diana highlighted the trust's work when she was pictured wearing a face mask and protective clothing during a visit to a minefield being cleared by the organization in Angola in 1997.
Her son said that at any one time, the group has 7,000 people deployed in the field, "striving to protect people and banish the fear that pervades the lives of millions around the world."
Fiona Willoughby, marketing manager of the trust, said the prince's tour of the trust's exhibit brings attention back to the issue. "People have forgotten about it, and we think Prince Harry, following in his mother's footsteps, is a worthy cause and will raise the profile of what we are doing," she said.
Earlier on Capitol Hill, Harry quizzed trust officials on mine-detection techniques and photos of amputees, keeping a sombre if animated tone despite the excited gaggle held back from the exhibit area.
He also surprised military mothers and their children at an unannounced visit to an afternoon tea at the White House hosted by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill. The prince joined in helping the kids make Mother's Day gifts from tulip and rose bouquets, vegetable chips and edible dough jewelry.
Harry will also visit parts of New Jersey damaged by Superstorm Sandy and stop for events in New York City before ending his visit by playing in the Sentebale Polo Cup match in Greenwich, Conn., on Wednesday.