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Day Honored for Commitment to Reduce Non-Combat Deaths

http://www.mainelincolncountynews.com/index.cfm?ID=24997
By Judi Finn

Eleven months after her son Capt. Patrick Damon, 41, died in Afghanistan where he served in the Maine National Guard, Barbara Damon Day of Newcastle had a proud and bittersweet moment of triumph on Friday, when she stood side by side with the Governor to announce groundbreaking legislation meant to protect those who serve their country in the military.

At a press conference with veterans and state officials, LD1889, “An Act to Protect the Lives and Health of Members of the Maine National Guard”, was formally introduced as an emergency bill by Gov. John Baldacci at the State House in the Hall of Flags. Supporting LD1899 are 155 legislative sponsors, rarely seen on any bill.

Gov. Baldacci said, “I’m proud to be standing here with Barbara,” and that the new law came about through her commitment “to protect the health of people who protect us.” He said, “From here on in Maine, we will take care of our own.”

Supported along the way by Damon’s State House colleagues, Day worked for months to get to this point, in hopes of preventing another family from going through similar heartache.

Day said that the State House was her son’s passion and joy. He was chief of staff for Speaker of the House Pat Colwell in 2002-2004 and served on other speakers’ staff. He was known by many at the ceremony and remembered fondly and respected for his dedication to public service as well as for his Maine National Guard duty.

Speaker of the House Glenn Cummings said, “As Speaker of the House today, I see the legacy that Pat Damon left and I know that we lost a person of great value. We can’t bring Pat back, but we can make a difference by passing this legislation to protect the health and lives of Maine’s citizen soldiers.”

“When he died in Afghanistan last June 15th, it was reported that ‘he died of a heart attack’,” Day said. Addressing the media she said, “I implore you to correct the record once and for all. One thing the autopsy did show is that Capt. Pat Damon did not die of a heart attack.”

Wearing her son’s dog tags and only losing her composure once, Day said the Vaccine Healthcare Center at Walter Reed is still looking at Damon’s death as possibly vaccine related. She said, “While the military lists Pat’s death as ‘sudden unexpected’ I call it ‘prolonged and preventable’ and have photos to back it up.”

On the day he was deployed to Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2006, Damon said goodbye to his wife and two children with a swollen face. In a photo taken July 12, 1999, after receiving eight vaccinations against eight diseases and a TB test, his face also shows swelling. A photo of him with Colwell in 2003 as a healthy man is a remarkable contrast. Day believes her son died as a result of reactions to vaccines and medications.

The new law forms a partnership between the Maine National Guard and the Maine Center for Disease Control to protect the health of guardsmen by setting higher standards for preventative medical practices and health screenings than currently exist.

A commission will be set up to track healthcare treatment of guard members and to make recommendations for improvements. It will review all health care treatment practices and protocols and the vaccinations and medications administered to guard members.

Day said, “This will also provide an access point for family members and the men and women who are members of the Maine National Guard, who may be victims of non-combat death or disability – a place for them to be heard, get support and some answers, and to know that the crack that their loved one fell through will be closed.”

The commission will meet four times a year and be comprised of Maine’s Adjutant General of the National Guard, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, Director of the Bureau of Maine Veterans’ Services, a doctor, a pharmacist, a psychologist, a family member of a deceased military person, a retired Maine veteran and a disabled Maine veteran.

The first report from the commission is due Dec. 15, 2008.

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