WASHINGTON -- Britain's Prince Harry opened a U.S. visit devoted to the wounded victims of war at the side of one of America's most storied wounded warriors, Sen. John McCain, at an exhibition about land mines Thursday.
For the prince, the tour in the halls of Congress was a world away from the Afghanistan war zone where he recently served for 20 weeks in an attack helicopter. It was just as far removed from his hijinks in a Las Vegas hotel room last year, when fuzzy photos got out of a naked Harry playing strip billiards.
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With a shrieking gaggle of young women straining to see him behind rope lines set back from the exhibition, the prince quizzed officials of HALO Trust, a charity which focuses on mine clearance and which had staged the display of photos, maps and mine-detection equipment. The devastation caused by land mines was a cause taken up by the prince's late mother, Princess Diana, and Harry has carried on that interest as well as his own charitable work for wounded veterans.
McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam and tortured as a captive, said he cracked to the prince that "he was probably a much better pilot than I was."
As for the prince's reputation for cutting loose on occasion, McCain joked that the dinner at the buttoned-up British Embassy later was sure to be a "wild and raucous affair."
On Friday, 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.
Harry will also visit parts of New Jersey afflicted by Superstorm Sandy and stop for events in New York City before capping his visit by playing in the Sentebale Polo Cup match in Greenwich, Conn., on Wednesday.
Diana highlighted the work of the mine-clearing charity when she was pictured wearing a face mask and protective clothing during a visit to a minefield being cleared by the trust in Angola in 1997. Fiona Willoughby, marketing manager of the trust, said the prince's tour of the exhibit raises the profile of the issue once again.
"People have forgotten about it, and we think Prince Harry, following in his mother's footsteps, is a worthy cause and will raise the profile of what we are doing," she said.