After the liberation of Iraq, Don North, 65, a TV reporter who had covered the Vietnam War from up close, obtained the video. Disturbed by what he saw, North sought out the victims and took on one of the most important missions of his life ? to document their stories and provide further evidence to the world of the atrocities performed by the madman named Saddam.
But Don North didn't stop there ? he set out on a mission to turn hands of horror into hands of hope.
North's commitment to find prosthetics for the men led him to Marvin Zindler, a well-known television personality and philanthropist in Houston, who immediately offered his help.
He introduced North to his friend, Dr. Joseph Agris, a plastic surgeon. Agris agreed to donate his services and got his friend, well-known hand surgeon Dr. Fred Kestler, to do likewise. Zindler and the two doctors then secured Methodist Hospital to donate its facilities. Continental Airlines flew the men to Houston for free, and the Otto Bock Co. of Minneapolis donated the bionic limbs and paid for therapists to help the men become accustomed to them.
After the Heritage screening, I had the opportunity to visit with seven of the Iraqis who had come to the United States for their hands of hope. I was struck by their gentleness and their love for each other born out of their shared misery and their new found awe at the generosity of strangers from America. They spoke to me in broken English or through an interpreter, but their message was clear: They are overwhelmed with gratitude for the Americans who freed their country and restored their bodies, and they couldn't wait to return home to a free Iraq.
At the writing of this column, Don North's "Remembering Saddam" is being reviewed for possible national broadcast in the fall on the History Channel. North is soon to start a speaking tour in the Midwest to promote the video through the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also working with a Basra hospital and several organizations to raise funds to provide prosthetic limbs for the 500,000 other Iraqi amputees in desperate need of artificial limbs and the psychological and emotional healing that accompanies them. For more information on the documentary or what you can do to help, contact Don North at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my final conversation with Salah, one of the Iraqi "band of brothers," he told me he had just spoken with his 9-year-old daughter: "She said, 'Hurry and come home ? I want to hold your hand and walk down the street and show everybody that you have two hands again.'"
American sacrifice and generosity produce more rewards than we could ever imagine.