Our most memorable moments from Invictus Opening Ceremony

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Invictus Games were created to honor, educate and inspire, and the Opening Ceremony of this year's event delivered the message with flying colors.

First lady Michelle Obama, Britain's Prince Harry and Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman delivered stirring speeches after performances from the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, soprano Laura Wright and singer-songwriter James Blunt.

"Let's put on a hell of a show in honor of our fallen comrades who didn't make it," Prince Harry said. "We are Invictus."

Here are some of the more memorable moments from Sunday's festivities:

Countries come together

Most of the 10,000 or so spectators stood for the entire roll call of 14 participating nations -- Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Jordan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States -- as nearly 500 competitors and their families entered Champion Stadium at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Similar to the Olympic torch relay, the Invictus Games flag had been passed from London to Florida in the past month. Retired U.S. Army Capt. Will Reynolds, captain of the U.S. Invictus team, ushered the flag from Buckingham Palace to stops in New York and Dallas and at the White House. Reynolds transported it from Washington to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex hours before the Opening Ceremony. A Blackhawk helicopter shuttled the flag to the stadium, where U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. August O'Niell, a medalist at the 2014 Invictus Games, rappelled out into a nearby field and brought it inside the venue.


The most powerful moment arguably belonged to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr., who took the stage to a standing ovation and silenced the crowd with the story of his injury and subsequent monthslong coma and rehabilitation.

He described how he was severely burned when his vehicle struck a land mine in Afghanistan in 2005, followed by an arduous road to recovery. Del Toro said the only time he doubted his resolve was when he saw his scarred face and worried how son Israel Del Toro III, who was 3 years old at the time, would react. Del Toro thanked wife Carmen and Izzy, now 13, for their love and care.

He roused the crowd by shouting the words tattooed on his arms, "Stay strong" and "Finish strong." Then he punctuated the speech by emotionally referencing a battle-ax he received from a group he instructed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio: "Never f---ing quit!"

Del Toro was joined by former President George W. Bush, with whom he became friends during his recovery.

Off we go ...

U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 34 flew its quartet of F/A-18 Hornet jets in tight formation over Champion Stadium as the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets played the final notes of "The Star-Spangled Banner" from high atop a stage backdrop.

Competitive spirit

First lady Michelle Obama joked that she might have to ask American competitors not to be poor hosts by winning too many medals. (Boom?)

But on a more serious note, she saluted the sacrifices of competitors' families. "For all the caregivers ... we know you dropped everything when your loved one was injured," she said.

She concluded by telling Invictus competitors, "I'm so proud of you all."

North of the border

Team Canada, which is represented by 31 competitors at the Games, will play host in 2017, when the event moves to Toronto.

'We are Invictus'

Prince Harry, who served two tours in Afghanistan with the British army, said he hopes competitors who have overcome invisible wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, will motivate observers who deal with mental illness to seek assistance. "I hope you're inspired to ask for the help that you need," he said.

The pledge

Freeman powerfully orated the Invictus Pledge to the crowd to help conclude the ceremony:

Your service sets an example
Your bravery inspires me
It is my honor now
To support and give you courage
To fight for you as you fought for us
To keep your family close beside
To take the steps you need to take
I am here for you