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Injured veteran's wife pens intimate portrait of her family life

Danielle Daniel hopes her book will help other military families
Danielle Daniel recounts life as a military wife in her new memoir, “The Dependent.” A launch party for the book takes place Friday, Sept. 30. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Eleven years ago, Sudbury native Steve Daniel was paralyzed from the waist down as he conducted a military parachuting course.

Although it happened in an instant, the accident was life-changing not only for the Afghanistan, Croatia and Bosnia veteran, but for his wife and young son. 

His wife, local artist and writer Danielle Daniel, speaks about the experience in her new memoir, “The Dependent.”

“Everything changed — where we lived, our daily life, our friends, even our family, some of them,” she said.

It wasn't an experience that was easy on the couple's marriage, but they were able to come out stronger at the other end.

“Marriage isn't easy for anybody, but when you are in the military, it is especially not easy,” said Danielle. “Then if you add a spinal cord injury, the stats are 80 per cent of you will not make it.”

Although the book is an intimate portrait of their personal lives, Steve was supportive of Danielle writing the memoir. If anything, he asked her to add things rather than take them out.

Formerly a teacher, Danielle said she turned to writing and art to deal with the turmoil in her personal life. 

She's also the author and illustrator of the children's book “Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox,” which was recently nominated for a Canadian Children's Book Centre Award.

If you visit downtown Sudbury, you can see Danielle's artwork on Durham Street, where she painted a mural as part of Up Fest.

She's now in the process of completing an MFA in creative writing, and is planning to publish another children's book, and is writing a youth novel and a more serious historical fiction book.

For his part, Steve turned to sport, competing in the 2008 Paralympics in rowing. He also returned to school, and is a graduate of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, now completing his final year of residency.

“That's what the book is about — how two people grieve and cope and heal in different ways, and how sometimes it's not always on the same path or on the same road,” Danielle said. “That's just life, right?”

She said she hopes the memoir is helpful to other families. Danielle said she was looking for books about injured Canadian soldiers after Steve's accident, but couldn't find anything.

“If we're not talking about what's really going on, then we're not able to better support military families,” Danielle said.

“I think in order for military families to receive more support, we need to tell the truth. That's what I'm hoping to do with this book.”

“The Dependent” is published by Latitude 46, a Sudbury-based publishing company that launched last year.

A launch party takes place from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 at Natura Events (next door to Verdicchio Ristorante). Admission is free.

The book will be available for $20 at the book launch, and afterwards, in select Canadian bookstores (including the Sudbury Chapters), Chapters Indigo, Amazon and Latitude 46's website.

There will also be a book signing at the Sudbury Chapters from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 29.