Ottawa Councillor Jody Mitic reflects on his military career, double amputation, and the joys of fatherhood in his newly released memoir.
“I am what I am. It’s all there,” retired Master Corporal and current Innes Ward Councillor Jody Mitic says bluntly of his recently released memoir, Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper.
This raw honesty runs throughout Mitic’s inspiring narrative, in which he describes his days as a child dreaming of becoming a soldier, and recounts the hard work and skill required to eventually become a sniper team leader in the Canadian Armed Forces.
However, his life drastically changed direction in 2007, when Mitic stepped on a landmine during a mission as part of an elite sniper team in Afghanistan.
In his book, he describes how, while his team began first aid and called for help, he tried to stay calm despite the excruciating pain and concern about their isolated location. “Never give up,” his teammate reminded him.
A nearby reconnaissance platoon rushed to their aid, until lead medic (now retired sergeant) Alannah Gilmore arrived to organize the evacuation. It wasn’t until Mitic was inside the lit ambulance that Gilmore recognized her friend.
She says it was “one of the most difficult casualty care situations” she’d experienced.
Mitic’s injury was so severe, both legs had to be amputated below the knee. This led to not only physical rehabilitation and adjusting to prosthetics back in Canada, but also forced him to question his identity.
He writes: “I worried about my future: if I wasn’t a soldier, who was I?”
Though the majority of the book outlines his military career, including many instances of strength and heroism, Mitic was determined to tell the full story, including his descent into depression and OxyContin abuse after his painful injury.
“These are the things that happened, I didn’t sugarcoat it.”
And Gilmore says: “Life was bleak for him. He didn’t know what was next.”
But romance – and parenthood – was looming on the horizon.
“Fortunately for me, I did find a woman who was willing to accept me for who I was and with all the problems I was facing,” Mitic writes.
In late 2007, Mitic reconnected with Gilmore after running into each other at a bar. Their friendship and common experience blossomed, over time, into romance.
Mitic says Gilmore “understands the soldier mind. We’re good for each other.”
Both were readjusting to life after Afghanistan, and Gilmore helped Mitic in his recovery.
“You can create new parts of your identity,” says Gilmore.
“His life as a soldier was a large piece, but there are all sorts of other pieces that all add up to a fantastic piece of artwork.”
And in his book, Mitic reflects: “My mind and body were pushed to the limit after my accident and, ironically, I came out on the other side a better, more complete person.”
Gilmore says she is incredibly proud of his “perseverance, go-getting and excitement about what’s next.”
And what followed was a long list of accomplishments, including Mitic becoming an advocate for wounded veterans and people with disabilities and amputees, competing on the first season of The Amazing Race Canada with his brother, becoming an Ottawa city councillor, and “closing a chapter” by publishing his memoir.
And then there’s what the couple consider their greatest accomplishments: daughters Aylah, 7, and Kierah, 3.
It was particularly important for Mitic to write his memoir so the couple’s daughters could learn about their pre-parenthood lives.
And Gilmore says her military background has taught her that if called upon, do whatever it takes to get the job done, which has helped her in balancing home life with Mitic’s opportunities.
He describes the girls as “blond-haired, blue-eyed beauties, like their mother” who are supportive of him and “make me want to be the best I can for them.”
When it comes to fatherhood, Mitic says he doesn’t miss out on anything because of his disability. The family enjoys everything from walking the dog together to travelling to Disney World.
And Mitic says ultimately, his daughters are his proudest achievement. “Being a dad is probably the manliest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Photo: Jody Mitic