My father, Donald Vogtsberger, Served 4 years during Vietnam, Staff Sergeant in the US Air Force, Honorable Discharge
My grandfather, Russell Shockey, deceased. Served 1942-1943 as a US Army Corporal during WWII
My uncle, Jim Witty, deceased. Served 6 years during and in Vietnam. US Army Specialist 3rd Class
Jacqueline Witty, currently serving in the US Navy
I was very active before the accident. I competed in running, cycling, duathlons, triathlons, martial arts, and I was a Federal Police Officer. I always felt a calling to serve my country and did so in two different ways. I would not change my choice to serve, I only wish that I could have served my country longer. The accident left me in a state of unknown. At first, the doctors’ prognoses were positive. They all said I would make a full recovery. So, I accepted these diagnoses and worked toward recovery. However, over time more and more injuries and problems started showing up in my body. After three years, the doctors’ prognoses changed from positive to negative. One doctor told me I would be sitting in a chair the rest my life on medication. At this point, I had given up on any recovery, gave up on returning to service, and found myself taking eleven different types of medication, some several times a day.
1.5 years Post accident – 2002 – It had been
1-1/2 years since my accident. I was over 215
pounds and 31% body fat. I was unable to walk without assistance and was taking numerous medications daily.
It was another two years, a total of five, before I was able to start to digging myself out of the bottom, where I had been existing. My days consisted of just surviving. I searched for meaning and purpose in life, but nothing filled the hole. Eventually, I saw an advertisement for a local triathlon. I made myself leave my apartment and travel to the race. I watched the start of the race, then the first few athletes exited the water, and started the bike portion. It was at that time, I knew I was done existing on medication and it was time to start living again. The road back to living and having a life was anything but easy.
My father instilled in me a work ethic that carried me through the military and my accident. My ability to choose a goal, focus, plan and be driven to succeed has definitely helped me succeed in the military; these same traits continue to carry me through my disabilities every day. I am focused and driven to not let my debilitating injuries and numerous disabilities stop me from living. I push myself every day to overcome and push through my body and mind trying to stop me from continuing. The harder I try and the harder I push, the better life I have for my daughter and myself.
2014 No Barriers Expedition. No Barriers is a non-profit helping veterans and civilians overcome obstacles in their lives through expeditions.
In 2015, when my daughter was born, 14 years after my accident, I was afraid to hold her very long. I was afraid that my body would give out or quit on me. I was afraid to hurt her. Now in 2021, after finding yet another ceiling that I have broken through, I can pick her up from the floor at and carry her up and down the stairs without concern. I can even pick up my disabled 110-pound English Lab and put him in the back of my vehicle. My body still gives out and quits sometimes, but I have built up a reserve that I can tap into to get me just a little further. Every day it is about getting just a little further than the day before. A little further than I have ever been before.
I spend my days taking care of my daughter, attending UC Denver in pursuit of my second Bachelors in English Literature and upon achieving that, I will be pursuing my Masters in Secondary Education. I write in hopes of becoming a published author, all while training daily for competition in Xterra off-road triathlons and trail running, Paratriathlon, and Paralympic pistol shooting.
I’ll close with a few words to my fellow veterans. For those who are struggling with mental and/or physical challenges, I truly believe it will help if you turn your focus to rediscovering your “why”. Try to reconnect with your passion – the same passion that once called you to serve – to help you find your next calling. It may not be easy, and perhaps will take more time than you think. But don’t get discouraged by wrong turns or failures; if you keep pushing you will eventually find it. Personally, I believe that serving in law enforcement, the military, the church and other professions are all “callings”. Just be careful not to be convinced by the first thing that gets your attention – or even something that you identified with in the past – because that may no longer be right for you. Stay open to all possibilities and know that your next calling may be something you never considered before. And seek out individuals who know, at least to some degree, what you’re going through. Keep searching for those individuals no matter how long it takes. It will be well worth your journey and could lead to an amazing rest of your life.