Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Art Of Human Spirit

He lost his arms in Iraq, now he paints with his heart and wants to help others...

Injured soldier Peter Damon works on one of his pastel paintings... Photo courtesy of Brockton Enterprise

Peter Damon, a former Sergeant in the National Guard, had a less than pleasant experience while serving in Iraq. While working on a Blackhawk Helicopter in 2003, the former electrician lost both his arms, and saw his military buddy from Alabama, Paul Bueche killed, after a tire on the helicopter exploded.

The explosion created a world of hurt for Damon, necessitating his removal from Iraq and a lengthy rehabilitation at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, where he was fitted with a prothesis on his left arm and the process of healing mind and body began for him.

Peter was having a difficult time while recuperating at Walter Reed, coping with the loss of his arms and the limitations he suddenly faced. As he told Alice C. Elwell of the Brockton Enterprise, I was bummed out, I couldn't do anything I liked to do...

Even in the most trying of circumstances, the ingenuity endowed with the human spirit, the drive to overcome can shine through, and Peter found himself with an inspiration, One day I practiced writing... I thought, If I can write, why can't I draw?

And draw he did, though his first efforts were shaky. Peter had to relearn to draw and eventually paint with his prosthesis, a slow going process, but progress was made and he produced his first picture, a pencil drawing of a stuffed bear.

Peter Damon's "County Crossing" depicts a railroad crossing in Middleboro's Rock Village - Photo courtesy of Brockton Enterprise

His wife Jenn almost cried when she saw the drawing, and it became one of her most precious possessions. For her, it symbolized that her husband was getting better. As she said in a recent interview, He doesn't want to be known as the guy with no arms...

After his rehabilitation was completed at Walter Reed, Peter and Jen, and their two children Allura and Danny moved from their native Brockton to a house in South Middleboro, Massachusetts, which was given to them by Homes for our Troops, a group that provides houses for injured Iraq war veterans.

The Damons also benefitted from his government pension, an insurance policy he took out before the war and cashed in, and legislation approved by Congress that provided a lump sum payment to service people injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

With his family and finances secure, there was no need for Peter Damon to work another day in his life. Still at age 33, he was restless. As his wife Jen asks, Where's the satisfaction in sitting back and watching the world go by? As Peter notes, I didn't have to go back to work, but I wanted to...I couldn't see sitting around, but I knew I had to work for myself. Certain times of the day I have to sit. I get tired easy, and that would make it hard working for someone else.

Clearly hungry for something more in life, and with a burgeoning interest in drawing and painting, old Architecture, and his wife's background in retail business, Peter and his family purchased the former Prescription Pharmacy on Center Street in Middleboro, a historic building originially constructed in 1880, with the goal of transforming it in to an art gallery by the Fall of 2006.

As Peter told the Middleboro Gazette, We want to create an outlet for area artists to display and sell their work...We hope to get a lot of up and comers here, people who weren't sure they were good enough to offer their work for sale or exhibit...

And there is the added pride for Peter, whose artistic muse is Ray Ellis, a painter from Martha's Vineyard, of owning his own gallery, allowing him to showcase his own works,There's a huge sense of 'Now I can still do something.' A sense of worth and the extra drive to get better...

Photo of Peter Damon & Family in front of
Middleborough Art Gallery building - Appears courtesy of Jane Lopes, Middleboro Gazette

Anyone interested in submitting artwork for an exhibition at the gallery can visit the Middleborough Art Gallery website here or email Peter Damon at: for more information.


Boston Herald: Artistic touch keeps disabled vet inspired

Brockton (MA) Enterprise: Injured National Guardsman plans to open art gallery By Alice C. Elwell, Enterprise correspondent

Middleboro (MA) Gazette, 8-3-2006: Art and Restoration: Town gets an art gallery, the Damons a new career by Jane Lopes

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