One Marine’s Miraculous Survival Story | The Oprah Winfrey Show | Oprah Winfrey Network

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WINFREY: This next story of survival made headlines and captured hearts all over the country. At the age of 21, Ty Ziegel was young, handsome and in love with Renee. WINFREY: Renee was a high school sophomore when she met Ty, a fun-loving senior. Ms. RENEE ZIEGEL: Something just drew me to him. He's down to earth. Everybody's like, `Oh, you're 15 years old,' you know, and I'm like, `No, that's who I want to be with, whether you guys like it or not.’ WINFREY: Growing up, Ty dreamed of becoming a soldier. So after graduation, he joined the Marines. Ms. R. ZIEGEL: Shortly after he got out of boot camp, he was shipped off to Iraq. My heart sank. I was definitely freaking out. I wrote to him every day except for weekends. WINFREY: When Ty returned from his first tour of duty, Renee was dealing with the sudden loss of her father. Ms. R. ZIEGEL: He stayed by my side the whole time, 24/7. That let me know that, no matter what, we can get through anything. WINFREY: A few months later, on her 18th birthday, Ty proposed. Ms. R. ZIEGEL: Ty got down on one knee and opened the ring box and asked me to marry him. WINFREY: Then Ty got the news he was being deployed to Iraq once again. Ms. R. ZIEGEL: When I found out that he was going back for the second time, I wanted to go the courthouse and get married, I wanted him to be my husband. And after he left, I cried all the time. I mean, I figured he was going to come home and everything would be fine and we'd start our lives. WINFREY: Well, Ty had been on tour in Iraq for five months when his family received devastating news : Ty and six other Marines had been attacked by a suicide bomber, and Ty was clinging to life. This is Becky, Ty's mother. So what do you remember about that call? Ms. BECKY ZIEGEL: I will never forget that call. It was 8:15 in the morning, December 23rd, 2004. Really, all they could tell us was that he was severely burned, but he was alive. WINFREY: As a result of the attack, Ty's skull was shattered, his face, his head, and arms were burned beyond recognition, and his left hand had to be amputated. Miraculously, he is alive and he is here today. Come on out, Ty. Hi. Nice to see you. Nice to see you. [APPLAUSE] Have a seat. Nice to see you. So, since that explosion, Ty has had more than 30 surgeries and has gone through extensive physical therapy. And just last month, he fulfilled his promise to Renee and made her his wife. And how is married life? Mr. TY ZIEGEL: Well, it's good. WINFREY: It's good. Mr. ZIEGEL: And we’ve... WINFREY: So how did you find out about what had happened to Ty? Ms. R. ZIEGEL: I had a message on my cell phone from his dad saying, you know, `When you get a chance, just stop by the house today,' and he sounded like everything was normal, everything was fine, so I didn't think anything. And then I get a call saying `We need you to come to work right now,' and I'm like, `Oh, my gosh,' because I work for my parents, and I'm like, `OK.' And right then I knew there was something wrong. And I didn't know what it was, and so all the way to work, I am just--I'm bawling, because I'm thinking he's either home surprising me or something bad happened. And I pull into our business, and my mom's like, `Get in the Tahoe right now.' And I'm like, `OK.' And she starts driving me towards their house, and I'm like, `Mom, you know, what's going on?' And she wouldn't tell me. And we get to their house, and I see Becky on the porch. I'm like, `Becky, tell me what's going on.' And she was in tears, and that's when… WINFREY: You realized something happened. When did you know the extent of your injuries, Ty? Mr. ZIEGEL: It was--it was so gradual that there's not really one day when I was, like, `Oh, you know, look at all of this' moment. WINFREY: Do you remember the suicide bomber at all, where you were, what happened? Mr. ZIEGEL: I remember just being on the--on the convoy, and I was in the--in the bed of the truck, right behind the driver, so I couldn't see until, you know, things were right there in front of me. And I didn't see it or anything, it was just instant black and kind of felt like somebody hit you in the face with a baseball bat, which was obviously just an explosion inside the metal also. And then I couldn't see the whole time after that. So it was kind of very weird, painful, and kind of just real, you know, dazed and confused pretty much. WINFREY: Yeah. Was there any doubt that you would still continue on with the wedding? Mr. ZIEGEL: With the severity of everything, I could have--probably could have sympathized if she would have not wanted to stick around, whatever, obviously. WINFREY: Was there any doubt in your mind about sticking around, Renee? Ms. R. ZIEGEL: No. If I didn't want to be there, I wouldn't have went, because we left the next day after the phone call. And he was in a drug-induced coma for a while, so if I didn't want to be with him, I would have went home before he woke up. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. And you told our producers that it doesn't even make any difference to you. Ms. R. ZIEGEL: No, I don't see any difference. I mean, I didn't date him and marry him because of what he looked like, I married him because of who he is. WINFREY: Fantastic. Wonderful. What was your life like before this happened over there? Were the American soldiers accepted? Were people… Mr. ZIEGEL: I just had nothing, you know, almost nothing but support and, you know, the utmost respect.

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