Prince Harry has penned a short, beautiful essay in praise of ESPN's Impact 25 honoree Sgt. Elizabeth Marks. The 32-year-old royal met Marks this summer in Orlando at the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded servicemen and women that the prince helped found in 2014. Marks is a combat medic who severely injured both hips during her 2010 tour of Iraq, and underwent four subsequent surgeries. After making a remarkable recovery, she won four gold medals in the swimming events at the Games this year — before going on to medal at the Rio Paralympics. But it's what Marks did with the medal Harry gave her that left a profound impression on him.
"I am incredibly proud to know Sgt. Elizabeth Marks," the prince writes, commending her athletic prowess — "an incredible achievement by any standards," as he says. "But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me she epitomizes the courage, resilience, and determination of our servicemen and women," he continued. "Elizabeth certainly doesn't want sympathy; she considers herself unbelievably lucky to have been given another chance in life."
Marks' life hung in the balance again in 2014, when she was set to compete in the inaugural Invictus Games. Her lungs filled with fluid she was put into a medically induced coma, the prince explains. "We all feared the worst, but the team at Cambridge's Papworth Hospital helped reoxygenate her body using an external lung machine and brought her back." This year, when Marks placed first in her fourth swimming event, she made a bold move by handing her gold medal right back to Prince Harry. "[She] asked me to return it to the team at Papworth Hospital, whom she credits with saving her life. This was a hugely inspirational and defining moment for the Games, and I was delighted to do this when I got back to London." Marks is an incredible hero, and we're not surprised her story so moved the prince.