Posted: 13 Jul. 2018 10 min. read

The fighting spirit of our wounded warriors

As a Founding Partner, Deloitte’s inspiration for working so hard to bring the Invictus Games to Sydney comes from the fighting spirit and determination of the remarkable service personnel who compete, as well as their families who support them. Being an Invictus Games Sydney 2018 competitor has given them the motivation and the strength to push through what could have held them back.

If you could push through what holds you back- where would you go? What would you achieve? What impact could you make?

To understand what Invictus Games Sydney 2018 competitors have pushed through, we spoke with William Reynolds III and Sean Walsh from Deloitte US, who have both been competitors at previous Invictus Games and the Warrior Games.

Tell us about your background and experience both at Deloitte at previous Invictus Games.

Will: I work in the federal healthcare space, primarily supporting military and veteran health and I’m thoroughly committed to the mission of military adaptive sports. I joined Deloitte US in 2010 as a wounded warrior when I first learned of the Warrior Games, before then volunteering and competing three times. I then competed at the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Over three different Invictus Games, I’ve won gold, silver and bronze medals across track, cycling and wheelchair rugby. I was also captain of the US team at Invictus Games Orlando 2016, which was a HUGE honour.

Sean: I work in the US federal space, working primarily with the US Department of Defence in its technology transformation. I started at Deloitte US in 2013 as an intern, when I learned of the Warrior Games through Deloitte’s support as the presenting sponsor. I’m a multiple Warrior Games participant, competing in both 2015 and 2016, and an Invictus Games Orlando 2016 competitor. I’ve participated in swimming and cycling and won medals in swimming. A highlight for me would definitely be receiving my silver medal for the 200m swimming relay from HRH The Duke of Sussex himself!

Can you tell us more about your injury or illness and what role Invictus Games played in your recovery?

Sean: I was coming home from a humanitarian mission in Bangladesh when I started to exhibit classic symptoms of Type 1 diabetes – I lost a lot of weight and I was thirsty all the time. My doctors were able to diagnose me straight away. It’s now a daily condition that I manage with insulin and exercise. As a result, I had to leave the military because it was a disqualifying condition at the time.

Through the Invictus Games, I was able to use adaptive sport to provide me with a goal and a mission. It was great to compete as part of a team because that’s one of the things I missed about the military. I found it incredibly powerful and motivating to represent my service and country again.

Will: I was wounded on deployment in Iraq by an improvised explosive device, which caused severe injuries to my left leg and left arm. I went through the limb salvage process, but eventually had limb salvage failure so my leg was amputated and I’m an above-the-knee amputee. I also have some nerve damage to my left arm.

The Invictus Games played a significant role in all aspects of my recovery. Socially and mentally, it’s great to be in a venue where you’re able to compete at such a high level of competition. It’s encouraging to know that you can still operate at a high tempo and do some pretty challenging things. From a physical perspective, I had milestones to train for and strive toward along with a network of individuals I could learn from. When you’re wounded, ill or injured, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one going through that set of circumstances. But when you meet a group of individuals struggling or dealing with similar things, you hear about the tricks of the trade in terms of how people are training and thriving. This also helps on the mental front.

The really interesting aspect about the Invictus Games is the cross-sharing between service members from many different countries and how it extends beyond races, creeds and religions. The Invictus Games drives connections between competitors and breaks down those barriers. The competition is really just the sideshow – in the end, it’s all about the healing and the connection that takes place.

What have you had to push through?

Will: I’ve pushed through the unknown and through knowledge deficits. We have a preconceived notion that we have to know all the answers but actually we can leverage other people for knowledge and information. This was something I really had to push through when I was injured because I was accustomed to being a thriving, self-sufficient, physically fit and able young adult. All of a sudden I was severely injured and had to rely on other people. I was going through something for the first time – losing the function of a limb. I had to become comfortable with ambiguity, asking a lot of questions and not knowing how long my recovery would take, or the prognosis. I think that ability to operate in ambiguous circumstances has been useful in both my professional and personal environments. It’s really daunting having new kids for example, but I was able to operate in that ambiguous space a bit better having gone through my catastrophic injury.

Sean: I would say I’ve pushed through convention. People in my circumstances are not traditionally encouraged to exercise, but I discovered there is an entire professional cycling team competing with Type 1 diabetes. They were turning expectations on their head and competing at an elite level – and I feel I’ve done the same thing. I’ve learnt to push through convention and do what’s best for me and my family.

The Invictus Games have a unique fighting spirit and uses empowering language to address injuries. What impact do you think this has on the competitors and how the public addresses visible and invisible injuries?

Will: In my opinion, people don’t look at individuals with physical injuries as requiring constant care anymore – they are very capable. I’m not sure if it is the same in Australia but I’ve noticed in the last year the standard symbol used for disabled parking has changed from an image of someone sitting up straight in a wheelchair and needing to be pushed to someone who is actively leaning forward in a racing wheelchair. I think that’s a great depiction of the changing perception of people dealing with different ailments. In terms of mental health and mental illness, I think the Invictus Games provides a safe forum for people to talk about these issues and what they may be struggling with which also helps to reduce the negative stigma within society.

Deloitte are incredibly proud to be a Founding Partner of the fourth Invictus Games, taking place in Sydney from 20-27 October 2018. For more stories and details visit the Invictus Games webpage. 

More about the author

Laura Edwards

Laura Edwards

Senior Consultant, Internal Services

Internal Communication Senior Consultant within Deloitte Australia's Corporate Affairs and Communications team.