Jody Mitic, top sniper who lost legs in Afghanistan and near-winner on Amazing Race Canada, takes aim at political office
Army snipers, even more than paint store employees, are colour experts. Of all the visual clues that will help a sniper distinguish a tree from a bush from, say, a Taliban fighter hiding behind said tree or bush, colour is key. It is what the human eye naturally looks for.
And so naturally, if you are looking to hide, you don’t wear bright colours. But if you are looking to stand out, you do.
Jody Mitic wore a lot of camouflage during his time as a Canadian army sniper team leader in Afghanistan. Lately, however, his uniform consists of black pants and a canary yellow shirt, worn beneath a canary yellow windbreaker.
Mr. Mitic — Canada’s most famous sniper, he lost two legs in Afghanistan then became a celebrity with his near-win on last year’s Amazing Race Canada — now wears the eyeball-attracting outfit every day, after washing it every night. He was thusly dressed at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, as he stood at a rainy crossroads in Ottawa’s east end waving to drivers during their morning commute.
“Being a sniper, we live by the way things are seen,” says Mr. Mitic, formerly Master Corporal Mitic, now retired, and now a Ward 2 candidate for Ottawa city council in the upcoming Ontario municipal elections. “Yellow stands out quite well against the background of any other lawn signs, and any other thing that you might see around it.
“People have been rolling down their windows and saying, ‘Go Team Mitic,’ so I guess the yellow is having the desired effect.”
Or perhaps candidate Mr. Mitic is having a desired effect, since he is out there, everyday, waving at cars in the wee morning hours before meeting people at coffee shops and retirement homes and at their front doors, to ask for their vote. The 37-year-old “never quits,” which is a personal motto. But he also never imagined becoming a politician. He was an army careerist. A sniper, through-and-through, right up until the moment he stepped on a Taliban mine in 2007. Mr. Mitic lost his right foot and, ultimately, his left. He learned to walk and even run again on carbon-fibre prosthetics and returned to work at the Department of National Defence, developing programs for wounded veterans, and publicly advocating on their behalf.
It was great, but: “Staying in uniform meant no promotions, limited employment and doing a desk job,” Mr. Mitic says. “To me, soldiering is done on your feet, and I eventually accepted that my days of soldiering had come to an end when I stepped on that bomb. I’ll always be a soldier at heart. That won’t change. And despite what people think about politicians, politics is another form of public service — and I wanted to serve for my whole life.”
Picking off bad guys in Afghanistan is a rare and refined skill. Municipal politics, meanwhile, is messy and fought at close range, in meeting rooms and in committees and through council debates. Candidate Mitic, however, views his past career as ideal preparation for what he hopes to be the next one. As a sniper team leader, he worked with Americans and Brits and Canadians. Different nations had different approaches and, at times, competing needs. But the end goal — to make things better for the Afghan people —was shared. Isn’t making things better for your community the bottom line in local politics?
“It is about working with people,” says Mr. Mitic, father of two young girls.
To that end, the candidate for Ward 2 wants to transform the area — already full of young families — into a more family friendly place by refurbishing the local arena, opening a new library branch and adopting a traffic plan that cracks down on drivers that speed through the area. It is a message Mr. Mitic delivers door-to-door, six hours day, knocking and, hopefully, talking.
The canary yellow jacket makes him hard to miss, while his celebrity — with a small “c” — does sometimes precede him. The sniper and his younger brother, Cory, finished second in the Amazing Race Canada scavenger hunt, winning over fans by refusing, even when afforded the opportunity, to punish their rivals by sending them on wild goose chases. The clue cards in the show are, yes sir, canary yellow.
“We kind of stole our colour from the Amazing Race,” Mr. Mitic says, laughing. “It was a no-brainer.”
Behind Team Mitic is Alannah Gilmore, the candidate’s wife and confidante. The combat army medic was one of the last Canadian faces Master Corporal Mitic saw before he was evacuated from the battlefield in Afghanistan.
He didn’t see her again until several months later at a bar near the base in Petawawa, Ont.
“Alannah kind of appeared out of the darkness,” Mr. Mitic says. “So I reached out and grabbed her arm to get her attention and, being the feisty lady she is, she cocked her arm back to tell me what she thought of that.
“But then when she saw me, she said: ‘Jody.’
‘‘If it wasn’t for that bomb, I wouldn’t have my kids, or my family, and I definitely wouldn’t be a candidate for Ottawa city council. When that bomb went off, a new path opened for me.”
It has led him to the crossroads of Ottawa’s east end, on a rainy morning, where the ex-sniper greets his neighbours with a smile and a friendly wave, instead of a salute.
“We used to have a saying in the army, ‘If it’s not raining, we are not training,’” he says, laughing. “You do whatever it takes.”