Since 2010, we have seen the creation of a number of significant international sporting competitions for wounded and injured veterans – such as this month’s Warrior Games and the Invictus Games. Both have drawn global attention, with millions all over the world watching the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney. The remarkable skill and abilities of wounded soldiers is at last becoming front page news worldwide, writes George Ramishvili, Founder & Chairman of Silk Road Group.
But these games only tell part of the story. Behind each of the sporting heroes of these events is a team and a family. And there are many more servicemen and women and veterans who may not be participating in sporting events, but nonetheless still inspire us.
It is for all these heroes that the Wounded Warrior Support Foundation was founded in Georgia. Supported since 2018 by Silknet, the WWSF aims to provide support to wounded soldiers and veterans and their families, aiding them in their integration to civilian life. Practically, this includes a wide range of support – from financing higher education and professional qualification to helping to fund specific medical treatments and equipment. Silknet’s involvement was Georgia’s first example of a private-sector organisation becoming involved in the care of wounded soldiers, and as the founder of Silknet and Silk Road Group, its parent company, I am very proud of what we have done so far. But there is still much more to be done.
In establishing the WWSF, we were able to draw inspiration from a number of US and UK-based charities and initiatives such as the Allied Forces Foundation, the Azalea Charities and the Give an Hour initiative. When it comes to bringing wounded veterans back into civilian life through sport, European countries are unfortunately lagging behind the United States. However, the WWSF is on a mission to change this, putting Georgia on the map at the forefront of active recovery for wounded soldiers in Europe.
Across all our implemented and upcoming projects, the involvement of volunteers is crucial. In order to become volunteers, Georgian citizens must first be aware of the challenges that veterans and wounded active-duty military face. Part of our mission is to raise that awareness in the Georgian population, showing not only what these people have done and sacrificed in the service of our country, but also what they are still capable of after suffering life-changing injuries.
One of the most striking examples is the Georgian sitting volleyball team which emerged victorious in the Invictus Games in both 2017 and 2018, with HRH Prince Harry saying: “I’m not sure any of us were ready for a group of men from Georgia – who until three years ago had never even played the game to battle all the way to gold in sitting volleyball”. The sport gained a new following in Georgia after these victories, and there is no doubt that more medals and fans will follow in 2020, at the next Invictus Games. These victories eliminated the stigma of physical disabilities within the Armed Forces of Georgia, showing that active life goes on. They once again underlined that our wounded service men and women are true heroes and inspiration for our nation.
But why stop there? When discussing the WWSF’s projects with co-founder Paata Patiashvili and CEO David Mamulaishvili, it occurred to us that Georgia would make a fantastic location for a sporting tournament for wounded warriors, thanks to our unique geographical features, location on the crossroads between East and West, and our commitment to supporting soldiers and veterans. Having hosted some qualifying tournaments for the 2020 Paralympics, we are already home to much of the necessary infrastructure – as well as exciting natural terrain and stunning mountain ranges.
A sporting event is just one idea that Silknet and the WWSF are considering for the future. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Defense to improve the programs supporting active-duty military and veterans, and are always learning from our charity partners in the States and the UK about new techniques and approaches to support military servicemen and their family members. In order to raise awareness, we are also looking at ways to use the Silknet network to showcase the initiatives and abilities of our wounded warriors to the country.
As the Warrior Games kick off in Florida, and athletes from the USA, UK and Canada compete in 11 sports, it is my hope that more people engage with the competition and the issues faced by servicemen and women all over the world. In Georgia and at the Wounded Warrior Support Foundation, we are committed to continuing our partnerships and initiatives to help Georgian wounded warriors, as well as raising awareness across the country. One day, we hope to be able to host our allies and friends for a uniquely Georgian sporting event which celebrates not only the past achievements of our soldiers, but also their future endeavours.
Source: EU Reporter