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This Punch Hit Below the Belt

June 19, 1997

I was saddened by a June 16 "Punch Lines" joke about Sen. Max Cleland. I'm sure your jokester wrote from ignorance, not knowing the facts about Sen. Cleland and his battle with sleep apnea.

In March 1968, as an Army captain in Vietnam, Cleland took a grenade during the battle of Khe Sanh. The explosion severed both his legs above the knee and destroyed his right arm. Shrapnel entered his chest and thorax, causing massive damage. The aftereffects of these upper chest injuries has caused his sleep disorder for almost 30 years.

After his remarkable recovery ("60 Minutes" called him the bravest man in America), he was named the head of the Veterans Administration by then-President Carter. He then served as secretary of state in Georgia for 12 years. As Georgia's new senator, Max Cleland is becoming a true leader for all of us into the 21st century. I am proud to call him my friend.

PATRICK CURTIS

Tarzana

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