This is Defence

‘Actually, this is just one big Open Day’

You can find it all the way back in the Fanzone: the giant “Dit-is-Defensie’ (This-is-Defence) tent. This tent is all about the future: developments in areas such as robotics and energy transition. Just outside the tent one can learn more about the present. There is the vehicle commander who calls the nearby vehicle his ‘home’, for example. Children, teens, adults, everyone seems to find their way to his home. “A vehicle like this attracts attention” he says. “People will yell out: Hey, it’s a tank!” He has to suppress a smile: “It is not a tank, but it sure looks like one.” The almost-tank attracts visitors of the Fanzone like a magnet. The vehicle commander, who likes to stay anonymous, and his colleagues are bombarded with questions and answer all of them enthusiastically. He appreciates having this opportunity.

At birthday parties, at some point all of them will inevitably be asked what it is that they do exactly, or how their deployment was. Questions that may seem easy, but they can be very complicated. “Nobody truly understands it” he explains. He thinks it is a shame that the world of the armed forces is so often closed off to outsiders and hopes that by talking to as many people as possible, he can increase people’s notion of the work of the armed forces. And he is succeeding. “Actually, this is just one big Open Day”.

The connection that is sometimes missing with civilians, is very much present among military personnel and veterans. “There is an immediate connection with other members of the armed forces. It does not matter if someone is from a neighbouring country or from the other side of the ocean, you form a bond after just a few sentences. Even though you might not have the same experiences, it is easy to imagine how it has been for them. The emotions and feelings are the same.”

The same sense of belonging and being part of a team that is displayed here, is also what drew him to join the military, and the infantry in particular. He compares his platoon to a football team: “You cannot play without a goalie. You need each other and you accomplish things together.” He strongly feels this sense of belonging on the premises of the Games.

Primarily, the Invictus Games are for veterans that have sustained mental or physical injuries. “I do not have very severe or impressive experiences myself” he says. However, being here feels special. “I have some mixed feelings – being here voluntarily” he explains, “but it is lovely.” In addition to the veterans themselves, the Invictus Games are also there for the Friends and Family. “Their stories are actually even more impactful” the vehicle commander nods. “When I am deployed, I am not concerned with what is happening back home. The personal stories of family members show me once more how much a deployment impacts them too.”