Chief Mark Saunders celebrated the journey of a military athlete who has overcome injury to compete at the Invictus Games, from Sept. 23 to 30 in Toronto.
Phil Badanai, a Canadian Forces veteran who will compete in indoor rowing and wheelchair rugby and tennis, brought the Invictus flag to Toronto Police Service headquarters for Chief Saunders to sign on August 3.
“The fact we are having the Games in Toronto is an opportunity for us to again showcase to the world what a great city this is,” said Chief Saunders, who welcomed Phil’s wife, Jackie, and their two sons, Jarrod and Ethan, for the visit in his office. “It’s also a time to salute the men and women in the Armed Forces for the sacrifices they have made. They become invisible when they return home, so this is an opportunity for us Canadians to remember who they are and celebrate them for all they have done.”
The Games will bring together more than 550 competitors from 17 countries who received a life-changing injury while serving in the military. They will take part in 12 adaptive sports including golf which is new to the Games.
Badanai served in the military for 16 years before being released in 2008 with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Starting off with the Royal Canadian Infantry, he was deployed to Croatia and Bosnia.
On the night of New Year's Eve, 1994, Badanai and retired Sergeant John Tescione were driving a Canadian jeep through the Croatian town of Kolarina when they came across a group of Serbian soldiers who opened fire. Military police later counted 57 bullet holes in the vehicle, but countless more rounds were fired through the open sides of the jeep.
Two of them hit Badanai in the back.
“I needed something to do after I left the military and have found the Games to be the challenge I was looking for,” he said.
He is participating in indoor rowing and wheelchair rugby and tennis.
“I chose rowing because one of my buddies is paralyzed and I wanted to do it with him,” Badanai said.
Bringing his family to Toronto Police headquarters has been one of his highlights of the summer, so far, but winning a medal at the third multi-sport event for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel is now his goal.
Saunders signed the I Am flag for Badanai in the presence of his family and organizing committee member Mark Parr. The flag reads: I AM. The Master of My Fate. The Captain of My Soul.
The words on the flag are inspired by the final two lines of Invictus by poet William Ernest Henley. Invictus is Latin for unconquered. The Invictus Games flag is a national representation of the unconquerable spirit of competitors and it embodies the hope and spirit of the competitors who will be part of the event.
Saunders wrote: “Phil for Prime Minister. Go Phil Go. Your Toronto Police family is behind you.”
The national flag tour starts on August 16 in Victoria and ends in Toronto on September 22 to kick off the Games.
“Toronto Police has been an amazing support partner for us in terms of providing security for the Games and we wanted to come here and show them we appreciate that support,” said Parr.
Toronto Police officers will be on hand to support the Games, providing security throughout the city.
Incident Command Team Superintendent Kim Yeandle said officers will be focused on creating a safe environment for athletes and spectators to enjoy the Games.
“The Invictus Games is a true demonstration of what any type of Games should be – a focus on courage, perseverance, inspiration, and the healing power of sport. The fact that the TPS gets to play a role in the Games is a true honour,” Yeandle said.
Service members will be assigned to the sporting venues as well as provide motorcycle escorts, with the help of Ontario Provincial Police officers, to escort athletes and their families to the events.
Yeandle also advises that Invictus Games flags will be delivered to TPS units in the coming days so that as many members as possible can sign the flags with messages of thanks, encouragement, and luck. The flags will be collected and delivered to our athletes during the Games.
“By helping make these Games the best yet, it’s another way for us to say thank-you to these soldiers who have given so much,” Yeandle said.