Lt. Nick Vogt and the Power of Faith

Nick Vogt’s alive. And that’s a miracle.

It’s a dramatic story of heart-stopping injuries and inexplicable survival—and a simultaneous testimony of tenacious faith and the power of prayer. Nick’s horrendous suffering touched the hearts of his hometown community, the far-flung military family, and Catholics everywhere. And the mysterious interplay between setbacks and miraculous interventions has swelled the ranks of spiritual warriors praying on Nick’s behalf, all around the globe.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let me tell you about Nick.

A handsome, athletic young man, Nick turns 24 today (December 13th). He has the lean muscles of a runner and the kind eyes of a big brother—his four younger siblings think he’s “one of the most amazing human beings” ever. One of those rare people liked by everyone, Nick reflects his parents’ strong values of family and faith. Devout Catholics, Nick’s parents–Steve and Sheila–wove faith into the normal fabric of life: a crucifix in every room, nightly prayers together at bedtime, and grace before meals. “God has been a part of our everyday life since day one,” says Olivia, Nick’s 22-year-old sister. And He remains so, now more than ever.

One month ago, the young lieutenant with the strong jaw and easy grin led his platoon on patrol in a still-dangerous corner of Afghanistan. It was a mission cut short. Nick stepped on a pressure-triggered explosive device (IED) hidden in the dirt beneath his feet. The lethal trap—purposely set for American soldiers–exploded under Nick, tore off his legs, and left his life hanging in the balance.

Nick should be dead, the doctors told his family later, if not from the explosion then from the precarious surgeries that followed. He suffered such severe wounds that his heart stopped several times as doctors operated to stanch the massive bleeding.

Medicine rejoices in miracles, but doesn’t expect them.

Believers do.

Jesus promised that, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt. 6:8). And Scripture says, “For God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37).

Even as his family sent that first urgent message–begging for prayers for Nick–to friends, parishioners, and neighbors in Bethlehem, Ohio, God surrounded Nick with exactly the people he needed.

A skilled medic, Spc. Thomas Underhill, saved Nick’s life in the intense aftermath of the blast. The military surgeons in Afghanistan, forced to amputate the torn limbs, fought tirelessly to stabilize Nick as he continued losing blood. Soldiers on base, responding to an emergency midnight appeal, sprinted over to give blood for Nick. The urgency of saving one of their own overcame their exhaustion, and the line of war-weary soldiers stretched a city block. (Before leaving the war zone, Nick needed 400 units of blood, 100 more followed later– the highest total of any wartime patient.)

Miraculously, Nick survived.

Parents will tell you that the thought of a son or daughter suffering alone is almost unbearable. The planes fly too slowly, the miles stretch too far, and the war zone delays their bedside vigil. But while Nick lay unconscious in critical care, God was there. According to his sister Olivia, “soldiers who did not even know Nick would sit with him for hours just holding his hand …just so he wasn’t alone. All for my brother who had been there not even 3 months… The amount of love from his and other soldiers there was unbelievable.” Nick needed comfort; bonded by war, his brothers in combat took turns by his side. The faith of his family and the prayers from back home brought angels to keep watch.

As people prayed, God answered again and again, in awesome power and love. In the days just after the explosion, Nick needed repeated surgeries. His sister Olivia said. “Every doctor…said he should not be alive after all he went through.” But God was not ready to call Nick home.

In fact, Olivia says, Nick’s dad jokes that Nick himself must have insisted on more time. As an officer fiercely protective of his men, Nick “was famous for going up the ladder of superiors until he got the answer he wanted.” It’s not hard to imagine that “when his heart stopped in the operating room, Nick must have gone straight to the top and respectfully asked God, ‘With all due respect, Sir, I’m not done down there, so could you please send me back?’”

Nick is back–resilient Nick, powered by a loving heart, a tenacious will, and the vigilant prayers of hundreds, even thousands, of people he’s never met.

Last week, Sheila Vogt posted this glimpse of Nick’s indomitable spirit: “He has a big day in the OR today.  He was chomping at the bit to get in there and just kept looking at the surgeon teams coming in his room and mouthing the words, ‘Let’s do it.’ Even as injured as he is, he still seems to be the Nick we all know and love.” Thumbs up, powering through the pain, determined to do what it takes–that’s Nick.

Never afraid of hard work, Nick excelled in school, sports, and the army, always doing more than was asked.  Why serve? Because it was his dream, his calling. “When he was six years old he wanted his first flat top hair cut,” said Olivia, “He had already decided he wanted to be in the army. From that point on he never second-guessed that.”

As his West Point years drew to a close, Nick mulled over the next step: medical school or deployment.  He opted to postpone medical school—for the sake of his future patients.  He told his mom that he’d go to war first, so that when he treated wounded warriors in the future, he would know first-hand what they had faced.

In God’s plan, there is no “what if?” He knows the “why?” and the “what comes next?” What we know is that God’s promise endures: He “works all things to the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). God’s got a mighty plan for this selfless young soldier.

Our culture blindly denies the value of life “burdened” by imperfection, disability, or suffering. But that’s not how his family sees it. They see the son and brother they love and for whose life they are profoundly grateful.

The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thess. 5:18) No easy task for us mortals; it requires divine perspective. In the midst of their grief and worry for Nick, his mom and dad gave thanks to God for the greatest gift—Nick’s life. In a Thanksgiving Day post, Sheila wrote, “Steve and I went to Thanksgiving Mass today in the hospital chapel. Our prayers of thanks this year have…a much more powerful sincereness. God has blessed us with a most ultimate gift – some more time with Nick.”

Nick’s life is truly a gift for others.  When the time is right, I hope Nick discovers…

–The spiritual fervor he’s inspired every day since his injury.  Countless adults, children, and peers hit their knees every day to pray for him.  Even people who haven’t prayed much over the years hear Nick’s story and reach out again to their Father in heaven.  “God, please heal Nick. Guide his doctors, comfort his siblings, and strengthen his parents.  We’re looking for miracles, Lord.” If only our lives drew others towards Christ with the same intensity.

–The gift of joy he gives his parents, doctors, and siblings each time he smiles, signals thumbs up, or delights in a favorite song. It’s a gift multiplied and received by hundreds who check on him daily through Facebook, receive emails from the incredible network of military families, and read the posts on his parish’s website. I wonder, do the rest of us give others such pure joy?

–The seeds of humble trust planted in the hearts of many, as God answers their prayers for Nick. On Dec. 7th, Nick’s dad wrote: “Nick`s recovery has gotten more difficult. …It turns out that a blood clot had formed in his brain … He went into emergency surgery last night and the clot was removed. This latest injury had me praying hard for Nick and to give us strength against falling into despair. Within an hour of my prayer for strength we had a visitor, a friend of Nick`s who happened to be here for other business. [He] had this type of injury a while back and looks great. My prayer was answered again. I now see that this injury can also be overcome. Thanks for your support and please continue your prayers.” Would that we all trusted in God’s strength, not our own.

–His impact on his siblings’ faith. In the midst of her family’s suffering, Nick’s sister Olivia said, “In a situation like this it is easy to blame God and ask why did it have to happen to such a good person? If anything, this has brought us closer to God. We’ve seen miracles lately happening to Nick. When doctors themselves say he should not be alive, there is a reason he is. And our family and friends believe it’s because of prayer…. For any one who has, is, or will go through this, you have to learn to trust in God and in prayer.” In pain? Trust God. Turn to Him.

—The inexpressible significance of his love. Nick awoke ten days after the explosion, the doctors stabilized him, and the military flew him and his parents to the U.S. for the next phase of treatment. Unable to talk, Nick looked at his parents next to him on the plane and mouthed to them the only words that mattered. “I love you guys!” Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7). Lord, help us love like that!

To those of you just learning about Nick, Olivia says, “My family first and foremost would ask for prayers from people. They’ve got us so far already but he has a very long way to go.”

Nick faces the constant threat of deadly infection and many months of intensive rehabilitation. His family’s journey will continue on its wild ride–the ordinary and the miraculous—but it’s a journey they won’t make alone.

Moved by the urgency of Nick’s daily struggle, thousands of people will walk and talk with God more deeply today. They will thank God for the gift of life—no matter how broken and vulnerable—and beg mercy, healing, and strength for Nick, his family, and our military.

And you…will you pray too?

Will you share his story with friends, so they will pray too?

It’s a small–but powerfully big–way to say thanks.

Financial support for wounded soldiers can be sent to Fisher House or the Wounded Warrior Project.  Donations to support Nick’s recovery can be sent to: Lieutenant Nicholas Vogt Hope Fund
c/o Sacred Heart of Jesus Church
5742 State Route 61 South,
Shelby, Ohio 44875

© 2011 Mary Rice Hasson

Photos courtesy of Olivia Vogt

Permission granted for republication, in whole or part, with attribution.

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36 thoughts on “Lt. Nick Vogt and the Power of Faith

  1. Beautiful testimony of faith! I intend to share this with all my family and friends. Lt. Vogt needs our prayers. Thank you Mary for sharing this story.

  2. Thank you for sharing this Mary. I’ve been praying for Nick ever since I saw his family’s status show up on my Facebook ticker. I’ve been wondering about his story and injuries. St. Timothy’s recently raised over $1,000 dollars for Fisher House. Do you mind if I share this story with the faculty/staff at St. Timothy’s?

    • Melissa, Please do share his story withe the St Tim’s folks. This will be a long journey for the Vogt family and Nick and his family will need as many people holding them up in prayer as possible … This is indeed what it means to be the body of Christ! Thanks for your help spreading the word!

  3. Mary – Thank you for the beautiful story. What is more amazing is just how small of a world we live in. You and I met years ago and are friends on facebook. Nick Vogt is my cousin and I thank you for your beautiful writing. Till we meet again!

    Linda Horning Pitt – Notre Dame Class of ’82

    • Linda,
      I had no idea of the connection! It’s good to hear from you again. Nick is a West Point classmate of a friend of ours and his story has touched all of our hearts. Let’s keep those prayers going!

  4. I’m Hugh Finnegan’s daughter who was raised in the Bethlehem settlement. So, I wanted to let you know I’m sharing Nick’s story with those here in Oklahoma and of course, around the world on facebook. Please know Nick and your family are in my prayers. And, I’ve asked my Mom and Dad’s intercession too (Hugh and Betty Finnegan). Hugs and prayers from Oklahoma.

  5. Hello! Linda and the Vogt family. God is amzaing. I had a friend in the Van Wert area of Ohio call and ask for prayer and to see if we had come across Nick. You see my son, Murphy Hueston is a Marine and also a wounded warrior. He is preently at Bethesda. Will have Murphy check on him along with Justin Crabbe’s family. Hugs and prayers from one wounded warrior mom to another……Carol A Williams

  6. Nick will be in my prayers for a long time to come…….such an awesome story of God’s faithfulness in the life of another local Soldier…..HOOOAH!!!

    A Brother In CHRIST,

    Jedidiah Brake
    OIF Veteran / Chaplain Assistant / USAR
    &
    Health Care Chaplain @ HomeCare Matters Home Health & Hospice, Galion, OH

  7. Can’t remember when anything has touched my heart the way this has. What a blessing this family is. Many prayers for ur daily struggles Nick and just as many prayers for Mom, Dad and the “kids” for ur daily emotional strength . Oceans of love and prayers from “C-TOWN”!!

  8. Mary, this is a wonderful article. I went to high school with Nick and we participated in band and cross country together. He is such a strong, wonderful person and it is so amazing to see the amount of love and support he has coming to him from all directions. I too have been sharing his updates on my Facebook page and with all of my college friends and fraternity brothers. He gains more and more support every day and I know that he will pull through this and make a miraculous come back!!

  9. My daughter went to school with Nick and Olivia. She too, from a very young age has dreamed of a military life. She is in the Air Guard and will be deployed to Afganastain in Feb. We have prayed for Nick and his family everyday since hearing of his injury. This story is such a strong witness to the power of prayer. We will continue to pray for this brave young man. God Bless. Stay strong! Vicki Lash and family

  10. What a beautifully written story about faith, family, the bonds of our soldiers and one incredible warrior . A fellow classmate from West Point and friend, Ned Lash, shared Nick’s story and I was given new hope for my own son who suffered a traumatic brain injury (unfortunately a common injury for soldiers) 18 months ago from a simple skateboarding accident. I will share Nick’s story here with our prayer warriors: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/thomasjosephstanton/mystory May God continue to shower his most abundant blessings upon Nick, his troops and all of our military men and women who so bravely serve our contry to defend our freedoms many at the expense of their lives.

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  12. We are praying for Nick here in North Central Ohio and believe that God is going to use him mightily as a testimony of His faithfulness and goodness. He promises that He will work ALL things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Use this tragedy God to glorify Jesus and may Nick impact tens of thousands through his courage and strength in Jesus name!

  13. A wonderful story and a difficult one to read at the same time, especially to those of us who have family there-God is always with us when we believe. Blessings to Nick and his entire family.

  14. Mary, I read the article and it brought back many memories.Im a Vietnam vet. 1 mos., after my return, I was the sole survivor of 14 pax in a military plane crash, 4 May 1970. My rescue was a miracle as were so many other events I was critically injured & burnede. The 89 days in ICU, my docs told me family my demise onlya matter of hours or days away; they’d make me as comfortable as possible. Well, I’m 70 now and stil vertical, take nourishment and play it forward. My famiy, docs and ICU nurses didn’t let me quit. Nick WILLsurvive…I have no doubt. I know prayer works..it worked and works for me. He will have some stories to share. His life has even more PURPOSE now; he willfind it; no one can do it for him. “Lord take me where you want me to go. Show to me who You want me to meet; tell to me what You want me to say and help me stay out of Yourway.” God Bless you, NIckand your family and his docsand nurses.

    • Thank you, Sir, for your own service and your encouragement to Nick and those like him who serve so bravely. Your words a powerful testimony of the Truth—God’s there, He loves us, and has a plan for each of us…Thank you so much for your prayers and your words!

  15. God bless you Nick. It is a terrible blow that you have suffered, but your faith in God and family will get you thru these difficult times. An awful lot of people, from your brothers at West Point to the many more you met over the years, are praying for you and are fully confident that you will survive and go on to lead a very productive life. God Bless You!!!!

  16. I am humbled to the core by the bravery and character shown by amazing young men and women like Lt. Nick Vogt. We all owe a debt of gratitude and profound respect for their selfless willingness to step into harm’s way to defend us from the world’s monsters. God bless Nick and his family and friends. Thank you, Sir for your enormous sacrifice and important service for every American and citizen of the world who loves freedom and liberty.

  17. Sir, You are now officially on a Prayer Warriors Chain…may God continue to guide you through these days of healing. Your Spirit will continue to lead you step by step.

    In His Service,
    Rev. G.E. Geib

  18. Our family has been praying for Nick since we heard about his injury from Mariann Van Name, mother of Lieutenant Kevin Dietrich. Our daily prayers include all military serving in our defense. They are truly our heroes ! May God give Nick the grace and strength to persevere, and may his family continue to shine the light of their faith and love to all of us.
    Dave & Norma Brennan
    St. Lawrence Church
    Lawrenceville, Georgia

  19. I pray for Nick daily. I am a nurse at a Catholic hospital. You can ask for a short prayer in the operating room for God to guide those caring for Nick. My son is a USNA grad 2010

  20. My son, Christopher, was there with Nick, his “LT”. Chris suffered a concussion and was offline for two weeks. In every contact with us, he asked for the strongest prayers we could muster for Nick. Chris told us about Nick’s caring and skilled leadership, about the trust the troopers had in Nick. Since the incident, Chris has been back out on patrol. He greatly misses his LT. How wonderful God is too have had his hand on Nick, saving his life for a plan laid out before time began. We’ll continue to pray for Nick, for the Vogt family and for all the American heroes “just doing their jobs over there”.

    • Thank you so much for sharing Chris’ experience and your uplifting words. It’s true for all of us–that God has “a plan laid out before time began.” It takes trust and confidence in Him to follow when we cannot see…Many thanks to your son Chris for his heroic service–glad he’s doing well! We too pray for all these brave young men and women.

  21. My daughter Kaitlin was a few years behind Nick in school and I was always impressed by Nicks participation in the school activities. He just always seemed to be there when something was going on. Now I can’t drive or walk down the streets in Crestline (or look out my front window) without feeling his presents in all the yellow ribbons tied to poles, trees, signs and anything else you can tie a ribbon around!!!! It is amazing! I pray for Nick and his family every day. As dumb as it sounds God has plans for that young man here on earth. He is going to touch someones life that is going to change the world for the better!

  22. My son Gregory is a West Pt. and Ranger classmate of Nick’s. Serving in Afghanistan currently he was quick to say, though devastated by this news, “Nick is the kind of guy who can and will get through this. He has the heart and spirit”. Each day is a miracle that Greg endures another day there; the worry is great and Nick’s story made my worry terribly real. The strength of this brave soldier and the love and faith of his beautiful family, has brought me great peace. It is all in God’s hands, it is not for us to know why. I pray each day for Nick’s continued recovery and comfort, for his family and close friends, and for the brilliance of the medical teams and “the brotherhood” that brought Nick back to us.

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  24. Got this article from your Aunt Cathy. My prayers are with you and your family..God is touching many people because of you.

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