Humor and Guts: Stories abound about injured priest hero
by Tim Drake, National Catholic Register
WASHINGTON D.C., June 20, 2004 (www.ncregister.com) - He had a sense of humor and a disregard for danger. That´s how friends and family sum up a Catholic priest who has become the first chaplain wounded in Iraq . That was while the priest was in Bosnia .
Father Timothy Vakoc (pronounced Va-KICH) was critically wounded by a roadside bomb May 30 while returning to base after celebrating Sunday Mass for soldiers in the field. It was the 12th anniversary of his ordination.
"He took the brunt of the blast," his brother Jeff told the Register.
The blast caused Father Vakoc to lose his left eye. He sustained trauma to the brain, has paralysis on his right side and, as the Register went to press, was fighting a bacterial meningitis infection common among soldiers injured in Iraq .
After being treated at an Army field hospital in Baghdad , he was evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany . On June 2, he was transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington , D.C.
According to his sister, Anita Brand, his condition is "critical, guarded, stable and hopeful." Doctors have been keeping him in a chemically induced coma to allow his brain to heal.
Father Vakoc felt Iraq was "where he needed to go," said his brother, Jeff. "He felt it was God´s will and was positive about what the military was accomplishing in Iraq ."
Father Vakoc once told his sister, "The safest place for me to be is in the center of God´s will."
The Register interviewed Father Vakoc shortly before he was injured. That interview, in which he described his "ministry of intentional presence" was widely quoted after the attack.
"The bottom line in helping these soldiers," he said in the e-mail interview, "is to be present to them and walk with them. I prayed with the soldiers, I prayed for the soldiers who died, I brought the sacraments of the Church and the light and love of Christ into the darkness of the situations."
The family said what they need most now is prayers. "We´re very blessed. Everyone has a prayer chain going for Tim," Jeff added. "My hope is that he comes back and is at least able to function."