Natalie Lela Madeline Pye-Keenan served in the Canadian Army as a Mobile Support Equipment Operator with postings in Gagetown, Borden, and Petawawa. Natalie competed in the Invictus Games in The Hague.

I was a last-minute addition to the team roster in the Invictus Games and I hadn’t met any of the other competitors until training camp. I remember looking around at the other faces of the competitors: to me, these were the faces of superheroes! Everyone was so jacked! I was surrounded by warriors, and I was worried at first that I didn’t belong.

Everything changed after my accident. I took for granted my mobility and my threshold to work through the pain. Some days, I don’t “look” injured, but I can’t move my legs, or I’ve been having terrifying seizures all morning, or my memory blanks and I don’t even recognize my own husband and children. My rehab is extensive and ongoing. But you can only see my injury if it’s a day that I need my walker, cane or chair. I can’t regulate my body temperature, and getting overheated turns to seizures. With the help of my coaches, I learned to train effectively so I don’t hurt myself.

Once I arrived in The Hague, I was paired with my roommate who has Multiple Sclerosis, and some of our symptoms are similar. We were really able to bond and watch out for each other. And meeting competitor after competitor, from all around the world, sharing our stories, there was an immediate and powerful mutual respect. I felt completely accepted and seen. I belonged.

The camaraderie in the Games was amazing. So many tear-jerking moments. We played against the Netherlands basketball team and they knew they were way better than us and were definitely going to win by a long shot. They’d been together for years, we’d only played together twice. One of our players had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer just before the games. He took a shot and missed, and our opponents made gracious but not obvious moves that let him shoot until he got it. The crowd erupted in cheers! They showed us such kindness, and we knew it was because of the long and rich history between our military and theirs.

I’m forever grateful to True Patriot Love—and donors like you—who give military members, Veterans and families so much help. Every single donation reminds us that you care. And every donation is a reminder that you’re thinking of us.

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