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Congress May Help Veteran Sue Air Force : Disability: Willie Harris says military doctors ruined his knees with cortisone injections to keep him playing for base team.

August 03, 1992|MARESA ARCHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After being discharged in 1967, Harris was still able to interest six pro-basketball teams, despite having to wear knee braces. But his only tryout lasted just three days before the pain in his knees forced him to quit.

His knees continued to deteriorate, and in 1972 Harris had the first of a long line of operations in an effort to halt the deterioration, he said. Seventeen operations later, doctors tell him that he will probably end up in a wheelchair.

Harris, a divorced father of four, said he has not worked since 1974, when he had to give up his job as a stand-in stuntman because of his injuries. He has survived on veterans' benefits and Social Security disability.

Standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall and built like a lumberjack, Harris said he wants to be compensated for the income he believes he lost because of his disability. "I was robbed, and after I was robbed I decided I wasn't going to be pushed aside and, no matter what it takes or how long it takes, I was going to fight back.

"I figure if I write enough senators and congressmen and holler loud enough, sooner or later somebody's going to listen," he said. "No one has the right to ruin my life just so one base can win more ball games than another base."

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