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Father, War Correspondent - Douglas V. MAG
Most people say they know and understand what is happening in Iraq because they see it on television. But they haven't had the real-life experience. You will never get the nerve-chilling sensation of war by watching TV. My dad always preferred the live experiences.
My dad is Douglas Vogt, a cameraman for ABC. He was the victim of a IED (improvised explosive device) ambush attack in Iraq and was hospitalized for a month and a half in severe condition. He was lucky to cheat death.
On the day of the accident, my sisters and I were watching TV when my mum got a call from one of ABC's producers. We failed to notice her stressed and scared look, since she was doing her best to hide it.
Soon, things started adding up, and I began to suspect the worst. I went to my room, and dreadful ideas started pouring into my mind, immediately followed by tears and hyperventilated gasps for air and understanding. I didn't know what had happened to my dad, but something inside told me that he wasn't okay.
I prepared myself for the worst. It was the only way I would be able to survive this. I imagined that my dad had been kidnapped and I would never see him again. I was sure of it. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't speak. I couldn't make myself understand. I couldn't think of a life without him.
My mum – tears running down her cheeks – gathered my sisters and me around her. She told us that our dad had been ambushed and severely injured in this attack.
We, the three women of the household, were bound together in a rush of fear, and bracing against the angst still to come. We were given few details about my dad's condition and his chances for survival. If there's anything worse than knowing that someone you love is in danger, it's being left in the dark about the details, not knowing if you will ever see that person's face again.
Soon, we were getting phone calls from friends, family, my dad's colleagues, and even complete strangers. After many calls, we found out a bit more about the accident. My mum left for Germany to be with him in the hospital, and we went to stay with friends. The next day, it was all over the newspapers in Canada, America, Brazil, England, and France.
Nothing was the same after that day. My dad was hospitalized in Washington, D.C., for a month and a half. My mum traveled to be with him, leaving my sisters and me in France. We finally got to hear Dad's voice three weeks later. It was hard to talk, hard to tell him what we were feeling and what we had felt during the past month. His voice was weak; I could feel the tears rolling down his cheeks as well as mine.
When my parents finally got back, things were so different. My dad was always tired, and he had to return to the U.S. once a month. He had scars on his face, shrapnel lodged in his skull, and a hole in his arm, a reminder of the bullet that had pierced his body. His hair was shaved on one side from the operations.
My grandmother asked us not to cry when we saw him, but that was almost impossible. Our tears were not from sadness or fear but satisfaction: before us stood our dad. Although he had changed physically, he was still the man who had changed our diapers, played Barbies with us, brought us presents from all his trips, thrown the most amazing birthday parties, and loved us unconditionally. He was still the man, the dad, who would survive to see us grow up.
In April, we all went to Washington, D.C., and New York City, and we got to see what he had gone through (all the doctors, treatments, hospitals). We know what he is still going through. We met his colleagues, who (in their words) “worship his work” and were glad to see us together again.
As the oldest, I was supposed to understand everything better than my sisters, but I really don't understand why this had to happen. Our lives were a muddle for a few months. We didn't know if we would have to move to the U.S. or if my dad would get through his treatments without any further problems. Basically, no one knew anything concrete. It scarred me, and as a result, one of my biggest fears now is not being in control of my future. My mother tells me that I have an irrational need to plan out my life, and she reprimands me whenever I lose patience because my future isn't going according to plan. Looking back, I know what caused this need, this fear of being left in the dark.
Why is this war taking so many lives? Every once in a while, I try to imagine what life would have been like if my dad hadn't made it. Would we still be living in France? How would I cope with the fact that I was so short-tempered with him in the days before he left? What would my mum do?
One thing I know for sure is that I'm glad my dad is here today – to listen to me talk or whine or cry about school, friends, boyfriends, and everything else a teenager worries about. I am so glad that my dad can be here to watch me grow up.