Members of the royal family know that just popping in at an event will give the hosting charity a platform like no other. The media will come calling, along with generous donors and loads of volunteers. Because if royalty supports it, then it must be a good cause, no? For select charities, involvement by a Windsor can go much deeper—Princess Anne’s decades-long devotion to the Save the Children Fund helped it grow into a global humanitarian behemoth. And in that same tradition, her nephew, Prince Harry, went on an Arctic expedition last spring to raise money for Walking with the Wounded, a charity that raises money to aid British troops who have returned wounded from the front lines.
The polar adventure is the subject of an intriguing new documentary, Harry’s Arctic Heroes, airing in two parts on Discovery World on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 and 9 p.m. ET. The focus isn’t on Harry—he’s busy training to be an Apache helicopter pilot—but rather on the four soldiers who volunteer for the gruelling trek. Each was severely wounded in Afghanistan and each has to conquer both physical and mental demons while in one of the most demanding and unforgiving environments on Earth.
Paradoxically, it’s their background as soldiers that helps and also hinders them. They each have the drive to push on when civilians would have faltered. Private Jaco van Gass has to develop a Goldilocks approach to keeping his arm stump safe—it can’t get too warm (sweat is bad in the Arctic) and not too cold (circulatory issues can arise). Yet when Sgt. Steve Young’s back, severely damaged in an IED blast in Afghanistan, starts to act up during a training exercise, Young guiltily worries that he might be a burden to his fellow adventurers who carry his load.
By the time Prince Harry joins the group in Norway for a truncated training session before the expedition formally begins, viewers know each soldier’s foibles and character. There’s plenty of laughter, but also angst, especially as problems crop up. And this being the Arctic, there are always complications.
Now, Walking with the Wounded has come up with another savvy idea to raise money: they’re climbing Mt. Everest. Alas, Harry has said he can’t go with them. While they’re hiking up the Himalayan mountain, he’s likely to be where all four soldiers got wounded: Afghanistan.