Beautifully written with an insider’s knowledge, compassion and understanding, In The Mood For Peace: The Story of the Izzy Doll by Phyllis Wheaton is an important true story about one Canadian military family’s ultimate sacrifice and determination to leave this world a better place in the face of war, death and destruction. It’s also about all of the good work being done by various humanitarian organizations in Canada to help ease the suffering of survivors of war and poverty around the world.
The Story of the Izzy Doll is not only about how the famous Izzy Doll was created, it’s about a very special family – The Isfelds of Courtenay, British Columbia – and how Carol and Brian Isfeld honoured the memory of their fallen son, Mark, who was killed when the APC (armoured Personnel Carrier) hit a trip wire which set off a series of explosions in Croatia in June of 1994. It is filled with photographs, letters, poems, quotes, and the thoughts and memories of the Isfelds, their family, friends and colleagues. It tells the story of how Carol Isfeld first started crafting the Izzy dolls to give to her son Mark to distribute to children of war and how Mark encouraged her to continue to make them to take her mind off her worry for him.
We get an in-depth, personal view of the compassionate, loving and playful personality of Master Corporal Mark Robert Isfeld, a Field Engineer and member of 1 Combat Engineers Regiment (1CER), whom we care about profoundly, and learn about what drove him to become a peacekeeper in the Canadian Armed Forces. We are led through Mark’s childhood, basic training and his three tours of duty in Kuwait (1991) and Croatia (1992 & 1994). We also get to meet his proud and dedicated parents and experience what they went through in losing their beloved son, through the eyes of a writer, singer and songwriter from Calgary, Alberta who was compelled to tell their story, with the utmost integrity and respect.
We are also introduced to several other significant figures in Canadian Peacekeeping, including Corporal Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2006 and how his mother Maureen created the Boomer Cap Project for children of war as well as the Boomer Legacy Fund (“to promote Canadian goodwill in foreign climates of indifference”) with her friend Jim Davis. We learn about the work of the International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS), Lynne & Billy Willbond, the Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Unit (CAV), Major General Lewis MacKenzie and the new Izzy Doll Mama, Shirley O’Connell, among other angels of mercy.
I had not heard of an Izzy doll before I made the acquaintance of Phyllis Wheaton. Now that I know about them and the price of duty, they – the soldiers and peacekeepers – and their significance, will never be forgotten. I found myself moved to tears frequently while reading In The Mood For Peace: The Story of the Izzy Doll and feel somewhat changed after reading it.
Phyllis Wheaton dedicates the book to “the hands behind the knitting needles and crochet hooks, mothers and grandmothers, great-grandmothers, knitters groups and students and others who have as of July 2011, created over one million Izzy Dolls for the children of war and the poorest of the poor.” The book contains knitting instructions on how to create and assemble an Izzy doll (also found at www.icross.ca), provides an Anti-Personnel Landmines Fact Sheet, Anti-Landmine websites, other websites of interest and a list of various acronyms and terms referred to in the book.
Phyllis has forever opened the closed eyes of this reader who has never given soldiers and peacekeepers the respect and credit they are due because of my pacifist stance against war. I didn’t want to look at or truly understand why they do what they do because I don’t like to look at or have anything to do with war, which I truly believe doesn’t really solve any issue in a manner that is worth the price of so many human lives. However, after reading Phyllis’ book, I have a new outlook on just how important our soldiers, military personnel and peacekeepers really are and for that, I will always be grateful. And if you are a knitter who wants to create something that’s really valuable to millions of children around the world, this is the project for you!
You know, soldiers are very unusual people. On the outside they are the hardest, most demanding people, but underneath that, they are the most human, the most feeling, the most emotionally attached people who exist. ~ A quote from Romeo Dallaire’s father, which appeared in Shake Hands With The Devil by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire
If you only read one book about peacekeepers, let it be this one. If you only watch one film about the ravages of war and the significance of peacekeepers, let it be Shake Hands With The Devil, the 2007 film directed by Roger Spottiswoode, starring Roy Dupuis, based on Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire’s book of the same name, about his “frustrated efforts to stop the madness of the Rwandan Genocide, despite the complete indifference of his superiors.” If you do, you will truly understand why a peacekeeper’s ultimate sacrifice should be honoured and never forgotten.