WASHINGTON – A buttoned-down Prince Harry joined Michelle Obama in honoring military families Thursday and toured an exhibition in Congress about land mines, opening a weeklong U.S. visit devoted to the wounded victims of war. Shrieking onlookers gave him the pop-star treatment, but he was all royal business.
The British soldier-prince had one of America’s most storied wounded warriors, the wisecracking Sen. John McCain, at his side as he viewed a display of land-mine photos, maps and mine-detection equipment, staged by a charity held dear by his late mother, Princess Diana.
As the prince entered the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building near the Capitol, he was greeted by a roar and shouts of Harry! from a crowd of about 500 people, nearly all of them women. They crowded a roped-off hallway and stairway with a view of the exhibit, hoisting their cellphones and tablets to get a picture. Harry didn’t visibly react except to give a polite wave.
McCain, with a laugh, said he told Harry, I’ve never seen, in all the years I’ve been here, such an unbalanced gender crowd.
From there it was on to the White House for a previously unannounced visit with the first lady, Vice President Biden’s wife, Jill, and military mothers and children at an afternoon tea.
For the prince, the Washington settings were a world away from the Afghanistan war zone where he recently served for 20 weeks as a co-pilot gunner in an Apache attack helicopter. It was just as far removed from his hijinks in a Las Vegas hotel room last summer, when fuzzy photos got out of a naked Harry playing strip billiards.
McCain, R-Ariz., who was shot down over North Vietnam and tortured as a captive, said he told the prince that he was probably a much better pilot than I was.
Today, the prince visits Arlington National Cemetery and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before flying to Colorado for the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. More than 200 wounded servicemen and women from the U.S. and Britain will participate.