Invictus Games Sydney 2018 kicked off this weekend in Australia, where Boeing employees from sites across the country welcomed and cheered on more than 500 competitors from 18 nations who will compete in the weeklong international sporting event for wounded, injured and ill veteran service members.
Competitors, family members, friends and traveling supporters gathered for an opening ceremony in front of the Sydney Opera House, where they received a special welcome from the United Kingdom’s Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, who founded the games.
“Be inspired,” he told the crowd. “Allow the examples of service and determination you all see to change something big or small in your own lives. Show the world what ‘Game on Down Under’ really means.”
Among the employees who came to show their support was Brisbane-based Neil Smith, director of Defence Programs for Insitu Pacific. Smith served for more than 13 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, mainly on “fast jets” such as the Classic Hornet.
“I can see how Invictus Games helps the competitors enormously,” Smith said. “To have a goal, to go and compete and feel good about themselves, that’s what it’s all about. It’s great to be a part of that and support them.”
The first competitions to get underway were sailing at Sydney Harbour and road cycling along Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. Other sporting events during the week include archery, athletics — running, jumping and throwing events, as well as indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.
For Boeing Defence Australia’s John Benham, who served in the Royal Australian Air Force as an air surveillance operator before transitioning to a civilian role as a life-cycle cost analyst on Boeing’s Wedgetail program, supporting fellow veterans and helping them feel valued has special meaning.
“In my current role, there’s a lot of former defense members,” Benham said. “It’s great to have a team that understands where you’ve come from and all the challenges that go with that. They can support your weaknesses but also amplify your strengths.”
Events such as the Invictus Games demonstrate the commitment that Boeing and its employees have to supporting veterans and their communities around the world. The company employs about 20,000 veterans — representing more than 15 percent of its total global workforce. In Australia, veterans make up more than 20 percent of the 2,000-plus employees at the company’s two defense subsidiaries: Boeing Defence Australia and Insitu Pacific.
According to Jo Barron, Boeing Global Engagement lead for Australia and New Zealand, the games not only align with one of Boeing’s core focus areas, veterans, but also helps raise awareness of veterans’ issues with the general public.
“It doesn’t matter where you live and work,” she said. “There are veterans in your community that need the support that Invictus Games and the other organizations aligned with it provide.”