Before leaving for Orlando, I had the opportunity to interview the retired United States Army captain, Will Reynolds, team captain for the United States Invictus Games athletes. Will was on his way to New York to give a presentation and I was fortunate enough to catch up with him whilst he was traveling by train.
Captain William Reynolds is married with four children. All were born after he suffered his injury in Baghdad in 2004. He was victimized by a roadside bomb which destroyed the lower part of his left leg. He endured 26 surgeries before finally having his leg amputated three years ago.
Nothing slows this Army veteran down. He was a gymnast while at West Point and he won four bronze medals at the inaugural Invictus Games in London. He also has two masters degrees from the University of Rochester in New York, his hometown. He works extensively in the nonprofit sector, serving on two boards for tampa organizations for veterans.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background in the military, leading into your involvement with the Invictus Games?
I was an infantry officer in the Army for six and a half years before I was wounded in Southwest Baghdad in 2004. I was commissioned out of West Point in 2002 and served in Korea shortly after that. After my injury, I got involved in recreational therapy and then adapted forth. In 2013 I competed in the Warrior Games. From there, I moved on to the Invictus Games the following year.
KF: What sport are you participating in during the games?
Biking and Track.
How does it feel to compete in the games? How do you feel afterwards?
In the military a big part of your identity I think is being pretty active, and your physical prowess and what not. If you’re wounded I think a large part of that identity is stripped from you. I think getting into adaptive sports and kind of regaining those activities is a large benefit – emotionally and mentally. It’s a large part of your recovery and I think that all bleeds over into other facets of your life whether it’s going through a vocational transition or want to go back for different educational pursuits. I think getting that confidence and that part of your identity back is a large help to those other endeavors as well.
Have you had the opportunity to meet and/or work with Prince Harry or interact with him at all?
Oh yeah I’ve had a chance to meet him several times. He came over with the British contingent in 2013 and that’s really where he got the idea to come up with the Invictus Games. When I was out there in 2014 he was involved in every aspect with the games since it was his kind of brainchild. He was involved in the logistics and the planning. He was on the ground spectating at every event as well as handing out medals. He was really a part of everything. He motivated the teams before their performances where I got to meet them a couple times as well as being a medal recipient. It was pretty great! Now this year, I was able to meet him again a month or two ago when we received the flag in the UK. Then I’m sure hopefully I’ll have the chance to meet him again when he’s back in Orlando.
That’s wonderful that he’s so active in the games at every level. As team captain what is your role exactly?
You have the role of being the liaison or interface between the athletes and the coaches and managers. Then the traditional roles of motivating, inspiring the team members, making sure that everyone’s a good sport and their conduct is up to par. Then you have, because these games are relatively new, a large part of my role is being an ambassador of helping to spread the word, interacting with a lot of the media.
What is your favorite part or aspect of the games? What do you enjoy the most when it comes to these games?
My favorite part is seeing how much of a transformational experience it is for everyone who’s involved. That’s by far my favorite part. They have really shined through that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for people. I think at the end of it, this is an experience that a lot of people carry forward for many years into different areas of their life.
Has anyone ever contacted you after the games and said that you’ve inspired them to join the next games? Has it given you a greater sense of comradery with your fellow soldiers and veterans?
Absolutely I’ve had a lot of people … You know, contact me – certain former veteran network list reach out to me and being excited and inspired by some of our performances.
The games are growing every year. They’re going to grow even more so next year. Every time that these have been held it’s just amazing to see just how new sports are added, more countries are added. It’s certainly having an effect on people. That’s wonderful.
Is there anything you want to add for people to just know about the games and what you hope that people who aren’t there will understand and take away from it?
I think one of the biggest things is a lot of people don’t realize that recovery is a long arduous journey. For most people it’s been well over 8 plus years in recovery. Just knowing that the starting point where they came from is much earlier than the success that they’re seeing them at now.
I have to thank Will for giving me those precious moments of his time and sharing his journey with us here at Royal Central. He is truly an amazing individual and an inspiration to us all.