First Lt. Nicholas Vogt, platoon leader with the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, stands next to a village elder during a mission in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (Courtesy Photo)
PANJWA’I DISTRICT, Afghanistan (January 11, 2012) — On the evening of Nov. 12, Sgt. Adam Lundy found himself in the Role 3 hospital at Kandahar Airfield. Just two hours prior, Lundy, an Alliance, Neb., native, was on patrol in the western side of Panjwa’i district, when his platoon struck several IEDs.
Suffering multiple shrapnel wounds, he was MEDEVACed to Role 3 medical facility for further assessment. In spite of having received shrapnel wounds to his face, arms and torso, he was listed in good condition and was able to walk unassisted.
Two of his comrades, 1st Lt. Nicholas Vogt and Spc. Calvin Pereda, were not as fortunate. Pereda, the platoon’s radio-telephone operator, had been in the immediate vicinity of the blast area of the first IED and suffered massive internal bleeding, which ultimately cost him his life.
For Pereda, it was the second time in his seven months in Afghanistan that he had been injured in combat.
Vogt, a 2010 graduate of West Point, had barely been in charge of his platoon for a month when he had heroically pushed one of his soldiers out of the way of a second IED and absorbed the brunt of the blast.
The force of the blast combined with the projectiles seriously injured the Ohio native.
As a result, Vogt was listed in critical condition and was under constant observation at the Intensive Care Unit, requiring a double-amputation and massive amounts of blood to stay alive.
Lundy, a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, recalls being overcome with emotion at learning about the condition of both of his comrades.
“I couldn’t think,” Lundy said, remembering that day. “I needed to cool off, clear my head.” Lundy recalls not being able to formulate cogent emotions, let alone thoughts.
“I was just feeling so many things, anger, fear, guilt, confusion … all of it,” he said.
Lundy went to sit with Sgt. Stephen Dodson; a soldier from his battalion who oversees the battalion’s wounded soldiers on KAF. As Dodson recalls, although Vogt was still alive, the severity of his injuries had the doctors worried.
“They opened up his chest and had to manually massage his heart several times in order to keep what blood he had left pumping through his body,” Dodson commented.
The biggest risk to Vogt’s life was the fact that he had lost so much blood—so much, in fact, that it would take 500 units to save his life. Vogt received more blood than any other surviving casualty in U.S. history.
This miracle was well-documented in the American press and stood to highlight the iron grit in Vogt’s character, giving him the recognition he deserved as a true fighter and American infantryman. What is less known, and less reported on, however, is the inspiring story that enabled the miracle to take place, a story of service members from across the armed forces banding together to save the life of one of their own.
“I’m not sure whose idea it was to get people to give blood … it was sort of a group consensus after we learned that the hospital would need donors,” Lundy said.
According to Maj. Raynae Leslie, the officer in charge of the hospital’s Aphaeresis Element, Vogt’s bed was so soaked in blood that it needed to be washed off before it could be used further, and the doctors operating on him knew they were going to need a lot more blood to “stay ahead on him.”
After learning from the doctors that Vogt needed blood, Lundy and Dodson, along with Dodson’s assistant, Spc. David Beaudoin, decided that they would do what they could to help their fallen comrade.
“I was at the hospital,” Dodson said. “So I called Spc. Beaudoin … I told him to get anybody and everybody who happened to have 1st Lt. Vogt’s blood type and to bring them to the hospital, ASAP.”
Dodson stayed at the hospital to monitor Vogt’s progress while Beaudoin picked up Sgt. Lundy, and together the two of them canvassed anywhere and everywhere on KAF they could think of to find potential donors.
“We went to the Boardwalk, to the Wounded Warrior ward, the R&R tents, the Rule of Law Platoon … pretty much anywhere we knew there would be people at,” Lundy said. “At first, we didn’t get too much of a response. Then we started being specific, saying that we need AB positive. After we started saying that, people started getting up to go to the hospital.”
At 7:19 p.m., KAF broadcast a message to all personnel on the airfield, advising “all AB blood types [to] please go to KAF ROLE 3 immediately. Emergency whole blood drive is activated.”
Lauren Hudson, a civilian analyst working for Regional Command-South on KAF, stated that the message went on “for about an hour and a half,” and further commented that it was the “first [message] I have seen requesting blood donations.”
Hudson explained how between the messages and moving around with some of her coworkers to try to find donors, the staff “was active to see if anyone fit the bill.”
Similar scenes were playing out all across KAF, home to personnel from not only the Army but also the Air Force, Navy, Marines and allied foreign forces.
Universally, service members received a message requesting their help, and universally, those service members were responding.
When Lundy, Dodson, and Beaudoin returned to the hospital, they saw a line of people stretching out the front door and down the sidewalk, waiting to donate blood.
“There had to have been at least 300 of them,” Lundy recalled. “Some of them were panting and out of breath, I’m guessing because they ran there.”
Lundy remembered seeing people from every walk of life lined up outside the doors: Army soldiers in their combat fatigues, Air Force personnel in their physical fitness uniforms, some still soaked from sweat from the gym, contractors in their slacks and polo shirts.
To Lundy, it seemed like everyone on the airfield had dropped what they were doing to help a person they didn’t know.
Maj. Leslie, along with Tech. Sgt. Jody Haslip, Staff Sgt. Troy Fred, and Staff Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, were conducting the blood drive, while Senior Airman Ronique Waite was single-handedly running platelet collections.
Leslie recalls that the required blood units were substantial.
“The doctor wanted 10 red blood cell units, 10 fresh frozen plasma units, 10 cryoprecipitate units, and 10 platelet units on shelves, reserved for Lt. Vogt before he went back into surgery,” Leslie said.
Leslie’s team ran the blood drive until three in the morning, just under eight hours. Because Vogt was due back in surgery two hours later, Leslie released her team for only four hours before ordering them back to resume work. Leslie herself reported back to the hospital at 5 a.m., going back to her dorm only to shower before returning to help.
It’s a good thing she did—Vogt’s condition turned critical again, and Leslie found herself using emergency reserve blood to keep Vogt stable.
“I was issuing red blood cells, fresh frozen plasma units, and cryoprecipitate units … every time Lt. Vogt was taken back into surgery,” Leslie recollected.
Vogt was eventually flown out of Afghanistan to Germany and ultimately arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he has been routinely visited by his family and has undergone a miraculous recovery.
Vogt’s story of heroics and selfless service has been a source of inspiration and hope for thousands throughout the extended armed forces community.
Through unmatched strength, Vogt has proven to be a living epitome of the Army Ranger and infantryman’s oath; to display the intestinal fortitude to fight on regardless of the odds.
It was no less a product of the iron determination and fraternal camaraderie embodied in the actions of Lundy, Dodson, Beaudoin, Leslie, and the countless hundreds who answered the call to aid their comrade in his hour of most desperate need.