Jody Mitic and What He Endured



Comments.  Considerations.  Questions.



                          by Kenneth Bagnell



     It’s now roughly 140 years since, in England, a poem was written called Invictus –  Latin for undefeated – by William Henley who, at age 12, had contracted bone tuberculous which led physicians, a few years later, to amputate his foot. He was 17. Henley’s poem still lives, often quoted, because of its theme of courage, faith and determination in the face of serious handicap. Many thousands of veterans have rallied for The Invictus Games in London, England during autumn 2014, then in May 2016 in Orlando, Florida. This has largely retained the living spirit of William Henley’s conviction. Thus, wounded veterans of all clans seek to overcome the limitation of their often serious wounds. This year they assemble in Toronto for the Invictus Games, September 23 to September 30. The number of handicapped veterans participating has in recent years, reached roughly 500, from 17 nations.

      An Ottawa citizen and Alderman, Jody Mitic, born in Kitchener, was wounded so destructively in 2007 by a landmine in Afghanistan that his feet and portions of his legs were removed.  Nonetheless he’s recently been encouraged, indeed inspired, by a recent phone call from Michael Burns, CEO of the coming Toronto event. “He wasn’t even finished,” Mitic said in The Toronto Star, “before I said yes—four times in a row, in fact getting louder each time. Michael knows I’m a busy guy; with young kids, a demanding full-time job as an Ottawa City Councillor, a new book project coming out soon and some very challenging health and mobility issues since the new year… But Michael wanted to be 100 percent sure I knew what I was saying yes to.”

     Mitic is a 20 year veteran, serving as a master corporal on three active tours of duty over several years. His colleagues are said to regard him as a precise marksman and a fearless one. It was on a day in 2007 in a small village, that he stepped on the landmine.  He has recently completed the manuscript of his book, “Unflinching”, which, we are told, is a tribute to his companions and the courage they displayed. He became an Ottawa alderman in 2014, when he topped the election, composed of nine candidates. Mitic views his involvement in the games as a patriotic exercise:  “To me” he wrote recently, “it is a unification of efforts by Canada and our allies in the global war on terrorism to fulfill the obligation to the soldiers who have been forever changed, both physically and mentally, by the battles we are committed to in the fight for freedom and liberty.”

     The Invictus Games are a major historic event, originating a few years ago in the vision of Prince Harry, who endorsed them, then named them The Invictus Games. “2017 is a year steeped in rich Canadian military history,” he said recently, “marking the anniversaries of historic battles that shaped and defined the nation. It’s also the year Canada will commemorate its 150th anniversary of Confederation…” It’s the only event of its kind, given participants are wounded or ill veterans. This is its third round, and the prince says he’s greatly pleased for it being the third event in the form of sportsmanship he led to existence.

      About a week ago, one of the Afghan soldiers who were seriously wounded, seemed nonetheless invigorated, looking forward to the stiff completion in this year’s Canadian Challenge of the Games. When mid- July was reached, the overseers of the Afghan competitors announced that so far, the Canadian team of seven Afgan-wounded soldiers, had been selected to compete. The competitors in total will be coming not from a few countries, but hopefully from 17. Many of the Afghans, have gone through dreadful injuries. Reuters has reported as of mid-July that one man. Mohammad Esa, who will compete, has an injury that calls for truly great athletic courage: he has no legs. Esa is 24 years old and a week or so ago, spoke of his role as an athlete at the event to a visiting Reuters journalist:  “I was so shattered when I lost my legs but now I am happy that I am back to life and want to achieve something through sport… I am training for Canada and want to make my country proud and come back with an achievement.” (His legs were lost to a bomb on a roadside in a northern part of the country roughly two years ago, one of many thousands of young men in the militia, along with the country’s police, in the conflict in which countless young men were lost.) The comments of those who have spoken, would indicate an enthusiasm that is not found everywhere. The team from Afghanistan, also has another special young man, Salahuddin Zahiri, who endured dreadful injury, leaving him with one leg, but he speaks as if enthused and looking forward to the Canadian event: “I haven’t lost hope, despite losing the leg, and this sport gives me a lot of motivation.”

      There are over 10 countries competing, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Afghanistan, Those who back it and support it, feel that it will bring a sense of community and fellowship, as does the Olympic Games. (Canada can look back and feel included since it was an ally to Great Britain in both First and Second World Wars. In more recent years our country has been involved in multilateral military action including Afghanistan.)

        It may well be that a side issue of the event in Toronto is the assurance of trust and brotherhood. The opposite once happened in the Olympic Games in the 1980s over complex business and political strategies. In turn another organization took over and tried to make it a success. It failed. In time, the Olympics did come back and remains today a great success. It all recalls an old reference, not made by a sports expert but a great philosopher, Bertrand Russell in the late 1950s:  “The good life is one inspired by both goodwill and sound knowledge.” Right. So may everyone hope for a memorable success in the coming September.




    It’s happy birthday to Barbara my wife,  

   and my appreciation for her assistance

   on all my essays and

   media articles from varied parts of

   the world.  I couldn’t ask for better

   judgement and, of course

   “presence.” Ken.                                     

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