A Foreign Service Christmas Story

Photo by Tomasz Sienicki licensed under cca 2.5

James Wagner, staff member of The Times editorial pages, former FS kid and son of U.S. diplomat Jim Wagner, pens in the LAT, The Best Present Ever, on how his father’s return after being held hostage in Peru made Christmas for him when he was 10 years old:

The greatest Christmas present I have ever received came two days early and with a rough beard. It was my father, weary and unshaven, after five days as a hostage.

He and my mother left our home in Lima, Peru, on Dec. 17, 1996, to attend a party at the Japanese Embassy in honor of the Japanese emperor’s birthday. My mother returned later that night.

My father didn’t.

A lanky and reserved man, my father grew up in Ohio but left to see the world and serve his country in the U.S. Foreign Service. In 1996, he was a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Peru.


My parents weren’t strangers to violence. My mother grew up in Nicaragua as the country was torn apart by civil war. My father was shot in the leg and left for dead at a shopping center one night in Venezuela after three thieves stole our family car. My parents knew how to react on hearing explosions. Inside the mansion, they took cover near an interior wall.

Continue reading the story here.