Jody Mitic takes in a large, almost exaggerated, breath of fresh air as he sits in an open expanse near the edge of Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
Jody Mitic lights the torch at the 2017 Invictus Spirit Flame ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Image by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Regina Edwards. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
Mitic is a retired Canadian Army master corporal, a sniper by trade. He’s lost in thought, thinking back on his active-duty days and the last time he was in Afghanistan. It was January 11, 2007— the day he lost both of his feet when he stepped on a landmine near Kandahar.
“This is Afghanistan, man. This is it,” said Mitic, after taking some time to absorb his surroundings. “We’ve sacrificed a lot of blood and treasure here. But to come back, see the progress, see little boys and girls in school…”
Mitic trailed off a bit, with a satisfied look on his face.
Like many wounded service members, Mitic wanted to return to Afghanistan. It’s a desire that’s tough to explain unless you’ve experienced it. The idea of returning was exciting, but a mixed bag of emotions, he said.
“Emotionally I was a little tore up. I tossed and turned on the flight, didn’t know how or what to feel,” Mitic said. “But once we landed and I strapped in on the helicopter, I was at peace. It felt right.”
Twice deployed while on active duty, his current journey back was that of an ambassador. He came here not only to make peace with himself, but also to extend his hand to his wounded Afghan brothers.
“I’m actually back because last year, Michael Burns [CEO of the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto] asked me to be an ambassador for the games. And then a few months ago, he started pitching me the idea of returning to Kabul for the torch-lighting ceremony,” Mitic said. “I told him yes, absolutely, before he could even finish his question.”
The international games are for wounded, injured, and sick military personnel and use the power of adaptive sport to help wounded warriors with their recovery. This year, the event is scheduled to be held in Toronto from September 23-30, and more than 550 servicemen and servicewomen are expected to compete in 12 adaptive sports.
Mitic joined the Afghan Invictus team for the torch-lighting ceremony at the Presidential Palace there. Officially called the “Invictus Spirit Flame,” the torch was handed to him for its journey back to Toronto, where it will light the cauldron for the opening ceremony. Mitic made the trip with his younger brother Cory, a civilian. Both natives of Brampton, Ontario, Cory has been his brother’s constant companion since the explosion.
Although that day Mitic was injured changed the his family’s life forever, it hasn’t slowed them down a bit. Both Jody and Cory are thankful for the way it’s all happened. Earlier, Jody explained that if one of his fellow team members had stepped on the mine instead of him, someone almost certainly would have died. Maybe the whole team. He’s thankful that the worst that happened was losing his feet. He also pointed out that his significant other, the mother of his two children, is the medic who saved his life that day.
“It hasn’t stopped him. It hasn’t even slowed him down. We competed on the Amazing Race Canada and came in second place. He was elected to the Ottawa City Council,” Cory said. “Where would we be if he hadn’t stepped on that landmine? Maybe he would’ve been killed on that trip, or a following trip. We just don’t know.”
It’s impossible to know where he would be or how things would turn out. But right now, Mitic is just enjoying the moment.
For more information about the Invictus Games, visit www.invictusgames2017.com.
This article was adapted from an original story by Staff Sgt. Regina Edwards and Lt. j.g. Egdanis Torres Sierra.