Prince Harry focuses on veterans in Washington

Posted at 12:23 PM, May 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-10 14:23:06-04

(CNN) — Prince Harry started off his second day in the United States with a solemn visit to Arlington National Cemetery, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Wearing formal dress uniform, the 28-year-old combat veteran laid a wreath Friday at the Tomb of the Unknowns and walked quietly among headstones in Section 60, the cemetery’s plot largely dedicated to those who have lost their lives in the fight against terrorism.

Harry finished his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan in January. He served for four months as a co-pilot gunner in southern Helmand province, considered a Taliban heartland.

Later Friday, he’ll stop at Walter Reed National Medical Center to visit wounded service members.

He’s now on a seven-day visit to the United States, one that shows a markedly different Prince Harry from the one who made headlines during his trip in 2009. Photographs of him partying naked in a Las Vegas hotel room donned newspaper front pages around the world. He later said he “let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down” in the scandal.

But the prince had little leisure time Thursday during his first day in Washington. His arrival on Capitol Hill prompted what appeared to be a mass exodus of women from their congressional offices hoping to catch a glimpse of the third-in-line to the British throne.

Harry stopped in the Russell Senate Office Building with Sen. John McCain to tour an exhibit on finding and clearing landmines, though the serious subject was made somewhat lighter by the occasional hoots from the mostly female spectators snapping a picture of the prince. They were kept at bay by security personnel.

Afterwards, McCain said Harry had what he called a “normal” reaction to the women there to greet him.

“I’m sure it’s not the first time that he’s had that experience,” said the Arizona Republican, who added that Harry seemed genuinely interested in the landmine exhibit.

“He wasn’t just asking cosmetic questions,” McCain said. “He was asking in-depth questions.”

Eliminating landmines was also a cause championed by Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana of Wales. One of the most enduring images of the late princess shows Diana walking through a minefield in Angola wearing a protective vest.

That vest bore the logo of the HALO Trust, the same organization sponsoring the exhibit Harry visited Thursday.

He spent roughly 20 minutes viewing the informational posters and assessing the mannequins set up to display specialized suits worn by landmine detectors. He chatted occasionally with McCain and Guy Willoughby of the HALO Trust, appearing to ask a few questions.

After the prince left Capitol Hill, McCain said: “I found him to be a very attractive young man, and I think he’s very serious about this issue. I was very impressed.”

Later in the day Harry stopped at the White House, where first lady Michelle Obama was hosting an event honoring military moms.

At night he attended a reception at the British Embassy. He first participated in a large receiving line, greeting guests that included Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan; former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Georgia; Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; and Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont.

The prince spent several minutes speaking with an Army Colonel Greg Gadson, a double amputee who was injured in Iraq in 2002, according to pool reports. Harry also chatted with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott made a few remarks to the guests, with Harry at his side.

A smaller group of 37, including Harry, moved on to dinner. Speaking briefly from notes on a podium stand, Harry paid tribute during the intimate meal to the HALO Trust, noting that 23 workers have died on the job in the past 25 years.

Harry thanked the U.S. for being the largest supporter of landmine humanitarian work, nodding to the “charitable instincts” of Americans. He added the night gave him “personal pleasure,” as his mother was also involved with the trust.

“My mother, who believed passionately for this cause would be so proud of my association with HALO, and in her special way, she adopted it as her own,” he said.

Friday night he flies to Colorado, where he’ll attend events at the Warrior Games this weekend, which are held for injured servicemen and women.

Also on the itinerary, he’ll tour damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and visit New York City, as well.

His last engagement in the United States comes Wednesday, when he’ll play in a charity polo match in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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