Jean Miso’s penned her first children’s book, We’ll Never Forget, to help ensure Canadian veterans from the Second World War up to Afghanistan, including her grandfather, retain their rightful place not only in history, but in the hearts and minds of Canadians.
Readers’ questions about the Canadian Forces (CF) and its occupations led the music teacher at Seneca School in central Etobicoke to spend the past year conducting research, searching photo archives, obtaining permissions from various government agencies and conducting in-person interviews with dozens of Canadian Forces’ personnel from coast-to-coast to write her latest volume.
Her recently self-published, Their Duty, Our Pride, features the military biographies of soldiers working in countless trades in the Canadian Army, Air Force and Navy not necessarily serving with boots on the ground, in an airplane or on board a ship. By design, male and female soldiers of various ethnic backgrounds through every rank, up to and including Brig.-Gen. Fred Lewis, are chronicled.
“The book profiles everyone from privates to generals throughout the Forces from a diversity of backgrounds, both men and women,” the Etobicoke author and music composer said. “What’s key is that they all feel success at their level. Success does not depend on making it to general. Success is intrinsic.”
Miso focused on casting the military “in the light of leadership” in her book, and as an inspiration to children in particular, and to Canadian society as a whole.
“I saw them as exemplary role models for people who need them, such as children, students. The core values in the military are the same values we want to instill as parents and educators. I want youth to look at them as a source of inspiration.”
Their Duty, Our Pride profiles an intelligence officer, infantry officer, Canadian Ranger, combat engineer, supply technician, chaplain, search and rescue technician, medic, pilot and logistics officer, among others.
Search and rescue (SAR) technician Sgt. Audrey Bourgoin’s story stuck with Miso.
The woman from Chicoutimi, Que. is only the second woman in Canada to become a SAR Tech since 1944. Bourgoin’s first hurdle was to learn English. She became bilingual. Trained as paramedics, mountain climbers, parachutists and scuba divers in all terrains and Canadian climates, Bourgoin must pass exams regularly to keep her demanding job.
“Audrey shows such drive and determination,” Miso said. “She’s a real leader. She’s focused and driven to meet her goals and to do what it takes.”
Bourgoin offered this inspiration to young Canadians in Miso’s book: “It is all about what you want to do and what you think you can do. If you focus on your goals in life, you will achieve them.”
Miso worked with reprographics’ artist Doug Shaw on the unique look of the hardcover book. The pair collaborated on the popular videogame Call of Duty-inspired illustrations expanded out from actual photographs, most of which Miso sourced from the website, Combat Camera. Some interview subjects, including Bourgoin, also provided Miso personal photographs.
Miso and Shaw’s first image for the book is a scene referenced by nearly every CF personnel she interviews: soldiers carrying the Canadian flag-draped casket of a fallen colleague down the airfield to the waiting plane for the repatriation flight home.
This week, Miso hand-delivered a copy of her book to “a great man, a true leader” — Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, in his Ottawa office where she had earlier met and interviewed him.
Natynczyk wrote in his foreword to Miso’s book: “The Canadian Forces is one of the finest, most professional armed forces in the world. Wherever our men and women go, they make a contribution to their community, to Canada and to troubled regions around the world. Canadians have felt pride during our successes and they have grieved the losses.
“As members of the Canadian Forces, we always strive to do our duty with integrity, loyalty and courage to bring honour to Canada.”
“All gentle giants” is how Miso described Canada’s highest general, indeed all four generals she met this week.
Miso composed the words and music to the song, Honour and Pride, to accompany the book. A CD featuring three versions of the song is attached to the book’s back cover.
“Dare to dream with open eyes; imagine who you can be” is Miso’s favourite line of the song.
“Youth have to be able to dare to dream it,” Miso said. “The message of the book is that you are somebody even at an entry-level position in the Canadian Forces. I think that’s a positive message. Canadian Forces train the person below them and train for the next level while performing the job. There is advancement for everybody; that opportunity is available to you if you want it.
“Youth, especially, need to see there is success at every level. They need to internalize that, to know that success comes from within.”
Miso has printed 5,800 copies of the self-published title.
For more information or to buy a copy of Their Duty, Our Pride, visit www.jeanmiso.ca
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Miso’s latest book benefits the Military Family Resource Centre.