From-the-Battlefields

Recipients

In January 2007, Jody Mitic’s life changed forever. While serving as a Master Sniper in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces, Jody suffered devastating injuries after stepping on a landmine, resulting in the loss of both of his legs below the knee. He would face a tough journey of recovery, rehabilitation and getting back to a normal life wearing two prosthetic legs – a journey that was made a little easier thanks to blood donors and the medic who helped evacuate him from the battlefield. She would eventually become the love of his life and the mother of his two daughters.

What may sound like the script for a Hollywood film is, in fact, a true story. Like many before and after him, Jody, now a retired Master Corporal, was injured in the line of duty. It’s his story that unfolds after this life-altering moment that has caught the attention of many Canadians. The Ottawa native took the loss of his legs as a sign to never give up, never take life for granted and enjoy every moment on this earth.

This new attitude and a renewed passion for life landed him and his brother a place on The Amazing Race Canada, CTV’s inaugural version of the huge hit seen around the world. Not only did Jody complete many of the physical tasks on two prosthetic legs, the Mitic brothers placed second in the competition, dissolving any preconceived notions that a disability could stop this man.

The medic who helped him on that fateful day was Alannah Gilmore. She had seen her share of close calls while in Afghanistan. After their tours. Jody and Alannah reunited in Canada and fell in love. After what they have seen and been through, they both felt life was too short and made the decision to start a family. “Our priority is to make good people for the world.”

He sees that day as the beginning of “new Jody” – when soldiers survive a devastating injury, they refer to that day as their “Alive Day,” the day they were given a new start. He speaks about the transition into the “new Jody” when he tours the country as a motivational speaker. One of his stops was this year’s national Honouring Our Lifeblood event in Ottawa, where he was the keynote speaker.

“I’ve been told that people are motivated and encouraged. I’ve heard that they are less scared of things that could happen to them because of their recovery. They see what happened to me and what I went through. People take what they want out of it.”

At Honouring Our Lifeblood he spoke to the audience – comprised of donors, volunteers, recruiters and partners – about how blood donors helped save his life. As a result of his accident, Jody received many units of blood and credits anonymous donors for saving his life. A former donor himself, Jody believes blood donation is one of those routine items everyone should put on their to-do list.

“If you haven’t [donated blood], do it. It’s something you should do,” Jody says. “It’s something people take for granted. It should be something everyone does once a year.”

Jody draws determination and unwavering grit from his personal motto, “never quit.” Not only is he living a normal life, he’s grabbing it with gusto. He learned how to walk and run. Within 14 months of his injury, Jody ran a five km charity race to raise funds for St. John’s Hospital in Toronto, where he recovered from his injuries. In September 2009, he ran a half marathon in Ottawa. His motto is what gets him up every morning.

“When you wake up in the morning you’ve got to decide if you’re going to let the day beat you. Tell yourself you’re not going to quit, you’re not going to look at the negative and you’re going to do your best. That’s the kind of attitude that makes you a better person to deal with. Regardless of what happens, you’re going to accept the day as it is.”

Before he even became a Canadian household name thanks to his “tour of duty” on The Amazing Race Canada, he was already being recognized for his inspiring actions. He received the military’s Sacrifice Medal, carried the Olympic torch for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, and met Queen Elizabeth on a recent stop in Ottawa.

And he’s not showing any signs of stopping. He rides motorcycles and hopes to race them; he learned to snowboard again and earned his scuba diving ticket. He also plans to pursue a long list of personal dreams: the Ironman race, writing a book, a TV show, bungee jumping and parachuting are on his list, and he’s training in para-rowing in the hope of competing for the national team.

It’s this determination and inspiration that lead Jody to be the co-founder of the Never Quit Foundation, an organization that raises money and awareness for adaptive living and takes wounded soldiers, police officers, fire fighters, paramedics injured in the line of duty and amputee children to special events.

“It feels good to help people. I look forward to seeing someone smile and have a good time. Through TV, radio or books, I will continue helping people.”

Jody is also a motivational speaker and an ambassador for Soldier On, an organization that empowers retired and serving members of the Canadian Forces with an illness or injury (visible or non-visible) to accept their new normal by adopting an active lifestyle through participation in physical, recreational or sporting activities.

He has a long list of accomplishments behind him and has huge plans ahead, but despite what opportunities may come and go, his family and appreciating life remain his top priority. When asked what inspires him, he immediately responds, “My kids. My family. People who expect me to show up. And myself. I promised myself that I wouldn’t waste any time and I wouldn’t take it for granted anymore. Before I was focused on my job and myself and it was hard to pay attention to the world. Now, it’s butterflies, sunshine, watching my kids play, and the silly look on my dog’s face. I cherish them.”

Photography by Colin Rowe

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