Prince Harry draws attention to soldiers

2012-05-08 18:21

Washington - Britain's Prince Harry urged the United States and the United Kingdom on Monday not to forget the plight of wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In a somber speech, the younger son of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, said: "Sooner or later the coverage of them in the media will diminish or cease (...) They will no longer be at the forefront of our minds."

The 27-year-old prince was in the US capital to accept an award for humanitarian service from the Atlantic Council.

Prince Harry, who served in Afghanistan in 2008 and is now an Apache helicopter pilot, was once pilloried in the press as a playboy who clashed with paparazzi outside British nightclubs and dabbled in marijuana and underage drinking as a 17-year-old.

'The real fight'

Dressed in a black tuxedo, he shook hands with former US Secretary of State Colin Powell who presented him with the council's Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership award.

"We should wherever possible and appropriate work together (...) to heal and support the wounded veterans of both our nations," he said, at a hotel in Washington.

The prince and his elder brother, William, are both military officers. They also serve as cultural ambassadors for Britain and have worked with Walking with the Wounded, which raises funds to train and educate injured soldiers and help them return to work in civilian life.

Prince Harry's remarks came as a US appeals court reversed a ruling that would mandate the Department of Veterans Affairs to overhaul the way it cares for veterans with combat-related mental illness.

Veterans groups say the several years that the administration often takes to process claims by former warriors suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder and other problems has led to roughly 6 500 suicides a year.

"For these selfless people it is after the guns have fallen silent (...) that the real fight begins, a fight that may last for the rest of their lives," Prince Harry noted.