Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard
Reviewed By TERESA GAMBLE
Nichola Goddard – Woman. Canadian. Soldier.
I am not quite certain that Nichola Goddard would agree with the priority of these three words. One thing is certain; Valerie Fortney has done a heart-warming job at introducing us to Nichola Goddard; to the soldier behind the name, and to the woman behind the soldier.
Recalling the day when Nichola Goddard became known to Canadians, I first thought about her as a dedicated soldier, a respected officer, who gave her life in the line of duty in Afghanistan. Unlike her peers, however, Nichola was a woman. She was the first Canadian female soldier killed in combat.
Living amongst a military community, and growing up in a military family and having my own military family, I was filled with sincere sorrow. As a proud sister of a remarkable young woman preparing to leave her three teens to serve overseas, I could understand the public outcry and call for reflection at having lost a woman in a foreign battle.
With a long history of military members in my family, I can understand and I have witnessed the gender biases that existed in the military. Was Nichola Goddard recognized for her actions, or for her gender?
Author Valerie Fortney introduces us to the young child growing up in a Canadian family. A Canadian family whose very nature illustrates the strength of character required to commit her to the service of others and to the preservation of hope. The Goddard family, starting in New Guinea, travelled through a variety of underdeveloped nations. They also travelled the northern and remote reaches of our aboriginal peoples and finally through each province and territory in Canada.
Nichola’s own desire for education led her to Royal Military College - to the future soldier, the born leader, the officer in training. She identifies herself not by gender, but by her pureness of personality and driven professionalism, which garners respect from peers, professors, superiors, and subordinates alike.
Valerie Fortney achieves the extraordinary by allowing Nichola to tell her story. The result is a novel about an extremely competent military leader, who in the challenge of her life, demonstrated persistence, patience and professionalism. She will be written into the military history books.
Will Nichola Goddard be recognized as the first female combat casualty? Yes. As a woman who went to war and whose actions spoke for the women of Afghanistan? Yes. As the first officer to be called into a fire battle since the Korean War? Yes. The efforts of Valerie Fortney, and the courage of those who knew Nichola, who were willing to share their memories, Nichola Goddard’s story will inspire the young soldier, the future officer, the new leader, and the true and tested warriors of both genders.
As my young sons and friends’ young daughters pursue their personal goals to attend Royal Military College, this is one story which will be on their recommended reading list.
And when they cross under the gate at RMC as an officer cadet, and then again as a proud officer, they will look up and see Nichola’s name there among the fallen.