By Army Staff Sgt. Regina Edwards and Lt.j.g. Egdanis Torres Sierra
Jody Mitic takes in a large, almost exaggerated, breath of fresh air as he sits near the edge of Bagram Airfield. It’s a smell – an experience – he’s craved for more than 10 years.
Mitic is a retired Canadian army master corporal, a sniper by trade. Right now, he’s lost in thought, thinking back on his active-duty days and the last time he was in Afghanistan. It was Jan. 11, 2007. It was the day he lost both of his feet when he stepped on a landmine in Panjwai, a restive district near Kandahar.
“This is Afghanistan, man. This is it,” Mitic said, 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 craved to return to Afghanistan. It’s a craving 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 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.”
Mitic made the trip with his younger brother Cory, a civilian – albeit with a booming voice and military-style bearing that causes people to continuously ask if he’s prior service.
Both natives of Brampton, Ontario, Cory has been his brother’s constant companion since the explosion. While Mitic was leading a three-man sniper team in Kandahar province, his brother was home in Canada. Cory was getting dressed for work when his mother, in tears, called to deliver the news.
“She called and said ‘Jody is hurt. His right foot was completely blown off. The left one is badly damaged; they’re going to try to save it,’” Cory said. “But he was stable. He was alive.”
While he processed the information, he said he ran through every emotion imaginable – starting with rage and anger. But ultimately, he focused on the fact that his brother was alive.
Although that day changed the Mitic family’s life forever, it hasn’t slowed them down a bit. 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 ‘Amazing Race Canada’ and came in second place. He was elected to the Ottawa City Council,” Cory pointed out.
It’s impossible to know where he would be or how things would turn out. But right now, Jody Mitic is just enjoying the moment.
“It’s like when you finish something you’ve been working on for a long, long time, but better. I’ve been working on this for 10 years,” Mitic concluded, a satisfied, faint smile drawing across his face.
–This story originally appeared on defense.gov.
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