RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Retired Army Sgt. Monica Southall has five first-place medals from the Warrior Games and Invictus Games to show off.
But one encounter at the games was worth its weight in gold.
At the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla., the Henrico County native met Prince Harry, the British royal who created the event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and servicewomen.
“I just received my second medal for discus and I looked out of the corner of my eye and he was standing next to me,” Southall remembered. “So, once he finished talking with the other soldier, I yelled, ‘Your Royal Highness!’
“He turned around, threw his arms up and gave me a hug and I said, “Uh, do you mind if I get a picture with you?” and he said, ‘Of course!’
But before Southall could take the photo, the prince was pulled in another direction to present more medals. She waited for him to return and eventually went to the other side of the field where he was presenting to try the photo again.
And again, Prince Harry was pulled in another direction.
“I was like, ‘Oh, man’, and he heard me. He said, ‘Hold on, guys, I promised her a picture,” and he came over and he said, ‘Well, can I hold your medals?’
Now Southall has a photo with Prince Harry, former of Duke of Sussex, with one arm around her shoulders and one hand on the gold.
“I thought, that was very awesome of him because he is a really busy person, he has things to do, but he was willing to give me two seconds for the picture that he promised.”
In 2009, Southall suffered injuries to her shoulders, knees and spine when bombs from an airstrike in Afghanistan landed too close.
Southall, who was an athlete in high school, got involved in adaptive sports soon after that, competing in the shot put, discus and sitting volleyball – and winning gold in each.