By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 6/2/2004 7:34:13 PM ET 2004-06-02T23:34:13

He can't hold hands with his father anymore.  Two-year-old Danny Damon is just now realizing that. But Danny did get his father back from Iraq.

Sgt. Peter Damon is on one of his rare visits home to Brockton, Mass., between fittings for a set of new arms at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where we first met him months ago: heavily medicated, and a different man.

Today, Peter Damon is back.  He struggles but does not complain — hanging up the phone, for example, used to be effortless. 

Even though this aircraft mechanic by trade must now find a new way to support his family without using his hands, there are no complaints.  “There is a life after losing limbs," he said. "I mean, it's a lot better than being dead, believe me."

His wife, Jennifer, helps when she's needed, but also watches in amazement.  "He's learning how to do things probably faster than most people would expect," she said.

Their daughter seems unfazed and talks a blue streak.  But the father-son relationship is more complicated. This man with the steel hooks for hands has been gone on deployment for most of his son's life.  According to Jennifer Damon, “Every time he comes home, he has to relearn 'Daddy.'"

“It's been kind of hard as far as trying to pick up my son,” Peter added.  “I haven't even figured out how to change his diaper or anything like that.” 

What else was affected? “My head's fine," said Peter.  "I can't, you know, do the things I used to do job-wise.  But you know I'll get by ... hopefully I'll be able to go to school somewhere and be able to do something, use my head instead of my hands.”

The Damons are living with family and need a home of their own.  When John Gonsalves, a local contractor, learned there was a need, he founded a charity to build and rebuild homes for the wounded returning veterans. It’s called Homes for Our Troops, and the Damons will get the very first one.  But there are thousands of other families in need, as well, and more on the way — and they are all Peter can think about.

“If I had seen me on the outside before, I would have said, ‘Wow look at that guy — he's got no hands,'" said Peter, "but it's not as bad as you think it might be.”

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