The Journey Back to Health and Fitness
BY MCpl JODY MITIC
© 2009 FrontLine Defence (Vol 6, No 4)

Master Corporal Jody Mitic of Ottawa lost both legs below the knee after stepping on a landmine while on duty in Afghanistan two-and-a-half years ago.

According to the old adage, when one door closes, another opens. Combat Medic, Sergeant Alannah Gilmore, was on-scene to treat the soldier’s severe wounds, but that was only the beginning. A relationship quickly blossomed and their lives changed in even more ways.

On the topic of meeting Sgt Gilmore, starting a new life with her, and the joys of fatherhood (they now have a beautiful baby girl, 10-month old Alaya), MCpl Mitic said recently in an interview on Canada AM “I wouldn't trade any of it to have my legs back. I'm pretty happy with the way life is now.” He’s even OK with his new desk job.

Attesting to both his strength of character and commitment to military service, 32-year-old Mitic has made it his mission to “get things back to normal.”

Knowing that physical fitness was key to the recovery process, he was determined to run again. He was fitted for prosthetic legs in March 2007 and put every effort into learning to walk and then to run with them. With Alannah’s unwaivering support boosting his resolve, he completed a 5km run in March 2009 (a fundraiser for disabled runners) and has now set his sights on ­completing his first-ever half marathon – the Canada Army Run – scheduled for 20 September in Ottawa.

Recently transferred from Petawawa to Ottawa, this tenacious soldier has made tremendous progress since being fitted with the prosthetic legs. He persevered through seven months of rehabilitation at St. John’s Rehab Hospital in Toronto, and now he’s back doing many activities he did prior to being injured, including running, hiking, and mountain biking. However, the half marathon will be the furthest distance he’s ever run, even prior to being injured.

 
National-level running coach Phil Marsh (right) helps MCpl Mitic reach the next goal.

“Completing the half marathon in Canada Army Run is important to me,” says Mitic. “It’s a milestone on my journey back to health and fitness; it’s an opportunity to thank civilians and military colleagues who have been so supportive; and it’s a chance to run with other wounded soldiers who are also making great progress on the road to recovery.”

Ottawa’s Phil Marsh has coached thousands of runners over the last 20 years, including Olympic athletes. “When I see Jodi’s determination and sheer willpower to overcome his disability – and I see how far he’s come since being injured – I am truly inspired,” says Marsh. “I hope that others who hear his story also become motivated to get involved in Canada Army Run. It’s a run unlike any other in Canada. It is a great opportunity to show our support for Canada’s troops, and it’s a chance to run side-by-side with the men and women who do so much for us at home and abroad.”

Mitic will join thousands of others who will run, walk, or wheel in the 5K or half marathon events. He will also join dozens of other soldiers who have been injured in the line of duty for a special “Salute to Injured Soldiers” at the start of each race.

“These individuals,” said Major Chris Horeczy, Run Director for Canada Army Run, “are an inspiration and a demonstration that through hard work, focus, and determination it is possible to ‘soldier on’ and overcome great challenges. I have the deepest respect for the contributions and sacrifices they have made in the line of duty, and true admiration for what they have been able to accomplish. They are role models for us all, military and civilians alike.”

Fundraising efforts for Canada Army Run go to Soldier On and the Military Families Fund – charities that support injured soldiers and military families in need. After raising $66,000 for the hospital, Mitic has recently taken on the role of Outreach Coordinator for Soldier On, an initiative he benefitted from during recovery.  

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© FrontLine Defence Magazine 2009

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