Curtis McGrath, returned serviceman, Paralympic gold-medallist and Invictus Games competitor, met with our Gold Coast office to talk about his journey as they walked together down Burleigh Beach.
He talked about his work as a solider in the Australian army, working as a combat engineer, and how rewarding his deployment in East Timor on a humanitarian mission was. "I felt like we made a huge difference to the people of East Timor. We were building medical centres, water tanks, orphanages, bridges and other infrastructure around the place."
He talked about the work they did in Afghanistan, including mentoring the Afghan national army and police force. He talked about the moment when he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost his legs. He talked about his determination and resilience in his rehabilitation process. "I wanted to be up and walking when they [his unit] got back from Afghanistan… I made it my goal to march in the welcome home parade. I wanted closure, to feel like I had completed my mission and my contribution to Afghanistan."
Curtis said he was only one of some 250 combat wounded from the Middle East deployments at the time, and that's just the physically wounded – many others carry mental scars.
Finally, Curtis spoke about how through sport, he found his purpose again. He became an elite kayaker, winning gold at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, and then – his proudest moment – carrying the Australian flag in the closing ceremony.
“Persistence is a great substitute for talent”
The Invictus Games are important to Curtis. "It's amazing to see the benefits of sport – and I have gone through that process – as sport has been my vehicle for rehabilitation." He competed in several sports in past Invictus Games, and this year, is delighted they have been brought to Australia.
"When people see the competitors – what they're doing in overcoming their adversity – it opens their eyes."
Partner Paula Robinson told our Gold Coast team:
"I am so inspired by what Curtis has been through and what he's been able to achieve since then. We as a firm are incredibly proud to be part of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018, and are doing what we can to get behind this amazing cause."