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ATLANTA--If you lost both your legs, would you be smiling less than a year later?
For me, the answer to that question is no. That's why meeting seriously wounded Army 1st Lt. Nick Vogt is an experience I will always cherish.
What struck me most during my Oct. 12 visit with the 24-year-old Afghanistan war veteran at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center wasn't seeing a handsome young man with no legs. It was 1st Lt. Vogt's bright, optimistic smile.
When the soldier's mother, Sheila Vogt, introduced me to her son, Nick was lying on his couch beneath an American flag decoration and photos of his little niece and nephew. While a beautiful fall day shone outside his window, stark reminders of our military's continuing sacrifices filled his apartment.
"Thank you for your service, Lieutenant," I said while shaking Nick's hand.
"No problem," the wounded warrior replied with a warm grin.
While the Army Ranger's mom and I sat comfortably, Nick spent most of the hourlong visit on his back. Even though it's been 11 months since an enemy improvised explosive device took his legs, one stubbornly healing wound forces Nick to avoid the sitting position. The quicker the wound heals, the faster the Crestline, Ohio, soldier can finally be fitted with prosthetics.
Nick's left hand is missing its pinky finger, and a large scar engulfs his arm. Both legs are missing entirely. The soldier has no memory of the Nov. 12, 2011, terrorist attack that nearly killed him, and said that in the weeks after the explosion, his mind underwent a full "reboot."
Still, as his mom described before we went upstairs to see Nick, there is no bitterness inside her son's heart. There is only the desire to live, heal, and serve.
"I'm staying in," Nick said about his military future. "And, Mom, someday I'm going back."