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Veteran Reacts to Prince Harry's 'Personal' Message on 'Car S.O.S.': 'He Has Done So Much'

Lance Corporal Stephan Van Niekerk, a father who lost his legs in Afghanistan, tells PEOPLE getting a surprise video message from the Duke of Sussex "made my sacrifice and effort feel appreciated"

National Geographic Prince Harry surprises military veteran on Car S.O.S
National Geographic Prince Harry surprises military veteran on Car S.O.S

Prince Harry made a surprise appearance on the National Geographic renovation show Car S.O.S. to reach out to a fellow veteran — and made his "sacrifice and effort feel appreciated."

The Duke of Sussex, 38, sent a video message to Lance Corporal Stephan Van Niekerk after the veteran, who was injured after stepping on an IED, asked for mechanical help from host Fuzz Townshend on his Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"I've got a message for you here," co-host Tim Shaw told Van Niekerk, 36, before handing over his phone as he sat in his vehicle.


"Hi, Stephan, congratulations," said Prince Harry in a video message, which was reportedly shot from his home in Montecito, California.

"I hope at this point you're sitting in your brand new — or certainly what looks like a brand new — Jeep," added Harry. "Good on you mate, well done — fully, fully, fully deserved. I can't think of anyone that deserves this more than you."

Related:Prince Harry Shares 'What Gets Me Out of Bed Every Day' as He Takes the Stage in San Francisco

"After getting injured at such a young age after two tours of Afghanistan, you are the definition of inspiration because you are not defined by your injury," Harry continued about Van Niekerk, who tragically lost his left leg in Afghanistan after he stepped on an IED explosive device in 2009. Van Niekerk also had his right leg amputated below the knee and lost some of his fingers.

"You are defined by your selflessness to others, to your community, your inspirational talks to young people," Harry continued in the video. "And, of course, to your four kids and to your amazing wife, Sadie, who no doubt has got you this far. So full respect, well done you."

"And I heard — someone told me — that you're planning to cycle from Canada to Mexico — just a mere 2,745 miles I think," Harry added, breaking into a smile.

National Geographic
National Geographic

"Good luck with that, I know you're going to do it. I know you're going to smash it. I know you're going to raise a lot of money for [veterans charity] Blesma as well. Other than that, mate, just a huge congratulations. Thank you for your continued service and commitment to others. I'm sure your whole family is incredibly proud of you. I'm proud of you," Harry said as Van Niekerk fought back tears.

"We're all proud of you, there's a reason you were chosen for this," Harry continued. "So, yeah, saddle up and enjoy your new wheels and then make sure you get as fit as you can for this next huge adventure that's coming your way. You're gonna smash that. At the end of that, I'd love to meet you — even if it's over Zoom. But um, yeah, full respect, man. Well done, love it, and catch you soon," Harry said, signing off with a "Cheers!"

Van Niekerk tells PEOPLE exclusively how much the message from Prince Harry meant to him.

"I'm one of those people that don't like to make a big deal about what's happened to me and what I do. I don't see myself as a hero but as just another person who's had a tough journey and now continuing to help others through my experience as part of my duty," he says. "But when I received that message from Prince Harry, it was so unexpected. I had no idea that was coming. He has such huge pressure on his shoulders and he has done so much in service of the veteran community and the country."

"For him to take the time to get to know my story and send that message saying all of those kind words and wishing me well for my future challenge was a huge honor," Van Niekerk added. "To hear appreciation from those around me is humbling but to hear it from a royal, who is also a fellow veteran, was very special. Also as this is all coming from someone who's also been through a lot and it wasn't just some generic message. It felt very personal and shows the mark of the man he really is. It made my sacrifice and effort feel appreciated."

National Geographic Prince Harry
National Geographic Prince Harry

Related:Prince Harry Says He 'Always Felt Different' from His Family: 'I Know My Mom Felt the Same'

"He's talking about you," Shaw said as Prince Harry's words set in.

"I know, I can't believe it," Van Niekerk responded, visibly moved.

On Thursday, the father of four, who goes by @the_diary_of_a_limbless_dad on Instagram, teased the episode to his followers.

"This is going to be a big one! Tune in as you may just see a very surprised and familiar face," Van Niekerk posted on his page, which includes a bio reading, "Welcome to me. I am a legless dad to 4 kids! Due to injury I have had to adapt my life in a major way but I intend to live it to the fullest!"

Prince Harry is a long-standing supporter of veterans and service personnel through his Invictus Games. In January, he announced that Heart of Invictus, a series following competitors as they prepare for the event, will air on Netflix in the summer of 2023.

"This new series from Archewell Productions follows a group of extraordinary competitors from around the globe — all service members who have suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses — on their road to competing at the Invictus Games," the streaming service wrote on Twitter in a thread announcing several sports-related programs. The caption accompanied a photo of the Duke of Sussex shaking hands with an athlete.

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The show will follow competitors in the 2020 Invictus Games in The Hague, the Netherlands, which was delayed until April 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cameras were seen following Harry Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games this past spring.

It also comes ahead of the competition coming to Düsseldorf, Germany, in September 2023. The 2023 Invictus Games will be the sixth time that the event has taken place, following games in London (2014), Orlando (2016), Toronto (2017), Sydney (2018) and The Hague. In 2025, the Invictus Games will return to North America and take place in Vancouver and Whistler, Canada.

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