If you watched Michael Moore's cinematic lie (Farenheit 9/11), you may remember a brief segment featuring an Army veteran who lost both arms in Iraq. The veteran is Sergeant Peter Damon, who was seriously injured when a tire exploded on the Black Hawk helicopter he was servicing.
Damon, who had his right arm amputated at the shoulder and his left arm at the elbow, is shown strapped to a gurney at Walter Reed Army Hospital, saying he feels like he has hands being crushed in a vice. Sergeant Damon appears moments after Washington Representative "Baghdad" Jim McDermott takes a swipe at the Bush Administration:
"You know they say they're not leaving any veterans behind, but they're leaving all kinds of veterans behind."
There are more than a few problems with Sergeant Damon's "appearance" in the film. First of all, he never gave Moore permission for the footage to be used. Secondly, Damon's comments were completely distorted by Moore, and taken completely out of context. The video originally aired in an NBC News report on medical care for soldiers wounded in Iraq; Damon's comments were a reference to the pain his injuries caused, and the relief provided by new drugs administered at Walter Reed. In the report, NBC anchor Brian Williams noted that Damon and other soldiers featured in the segment voiced support for President and the war effort.
Now, Sergeant Damon and his family are fighting back; they've filed suit against Moore and his production company, seeking $85 million in damages for "loss of reputation, emotional distress, embarassment and personal humiliation." The requested damages include a separate, $10 million suit filed by Damon's wife for mental distress and anguish.
Damon has also launched his own media blitz, letting everyone know that, despite his injuries, he's doing just fine:
Damon was "supported, financially and emotionally, by the active assistance of the president, the United States and his family, friends, acquaintances and community," he added.
Damon has learned to use his artificial arms with the help of military personnel. Veterans groups have helped to build his family a home in Middleboro, Massachusetts.
In an interview in front of his house, Damon told local CBS television: "The original idea was supposed to be something positive about the treatment we were receiving ... not something to be used in a story talking about veterans being left behind because as you can see behind me I'm the last person who can say I am being left behind," he said, gesturing to his home.
Not surprisingly, neither Mr. Moore nor his representatives could be reached for comment. This ought to be an interesting (although brief) court battle. The rich, corpulent film-maker versus a decorated, disabled vet. Even in Massachusetts, it won't take long for a jury to decide against Mr. Moore.
And another comment: He didn't lose his limbs in combat. What happened is something that might just as well have happened if everyone had stayed home.
Not to minimize his pain or anything, but only to further the point that using him as The Grim Face Of War's Effect On People is entirely inaccurate.
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