Prince Harry filmed a video praising Sergeant First Class Elizabeth Marks for her courage and willpower despite suffering hip injuries but some people criticised him

Some critics have cruelly hit out at Prince Harry after he wore his Army medals while presenting the Soldier of the Year award to US combat medic Sergeant First Class Elizabeth Marks.

The Duke of Sussex shared a speech filmed outside his home in Montecito, California, in which he described the soldier as a “friend” and a “beacon of inspiration”. Sergeant Banks joined the US Army in 2008 at the age of 17 and suffered bilateral hip injuries while deployed in Iraq two years later.

Harry said she “persevered tirelessly” despite her injuries, highlighting her courage as well as “compassion and willpower”. But the Duke’s video was not well-received by some people who criticised Harry for wearing his medals and others who said an American veteran should have presented the award.

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Prince Harry wore his medals to film the video (
Military Times)

A person wrote on Reddit: “Out of everyone in the world they chose Harry?!” Another said: “We didn’t have an American Veteran who could do this?” But someone replied: “He has a connection to her as she was a part of the Invictus Games.” One person added: “I remember her from the Invictus Games in 2016! Very special that he presented the award to her after all these years.”

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A royal fan branded the video “embarrassing” and the medals “ridiculous” with one user writing on X: “The participation medals are a sad cry for ‘looook at meeeeeeeee’.” However, others defended Harry with one commenting: “Harry is wearing his participation medals. 3 of them are to mark the late Queen’s jubilees, and one is for being in the Army.”

During his heartfelt speech, Harry said: “I first met Sergeant First Class Elizabeth Marks at the Invictus Games in Orlando 2016, where I presented her with not one, but four gold medals that she’d won in swimming. To me, she epitomises the courage, resilience and determination represented across our service community. And this is not just because of her swimming abilities.

“Ellie has courageously overcome every obstacle to cross her path. She has turned her pain into purpose and led through compassion and willpower, showing others that the impossible is indeed possible.” He added: “Despite the injuries she endured during her deployment as a medical assistant in Iraq – along with numerous surgeries and setbacks that would have deterred many – she has persevered tirelessly, becoming the first woman in the Army’s world-class athlete program as well as the first swimmer the program had ever seen.

Prince Harry attends The Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on December 15, 2017 (
Getty Images)

Sergeant First Class Elizabeth Marks suffered bilateral hip injuries while deployed in Iraq in 2010
“She’s also taken her recovery a step further, using her experiences and achievements to inspire and assist others in their mental and physical journey into sport, ensuring those who can’t see a way out or through are introduced to the medicine of sport that saved her too.” Harry continued: “Ellie – you embody the Invictus spirit through your selfless service. You know that sport doesn’t just save lives, it transforms them for the better. And in finding your own cure, you’ve helped countless brothers and sisters in staying alive.

“Your unwavering commitment serves as a beacon of inspiration, offering hope and setting a powerful example for others to follow. I am honoured to call you my friend and can’t thank you enough for being you – and for Mason, your husband, for being so supportive of you.

“To all the service members in the room tonight, past and present, know that your community and indeed the international community is grateful. Grateful for all the sacrifices you and your family have made, grateful for your service to your country, grateful for continuing the important values we learnt. Tonight, it’s for you. Thank you for all that you’ve done.”

The award ceremony was hosted by the Military Times – an independent news website which focuses on issues for the military community and honours one outstanding military member for each branch of service, based on service that goes beyond the call of duty every year.

Harry’s medals on show were his Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan, presented in 2008 after his service in Helmand Province, his Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, his Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and his Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.

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