An Oregon man got an unexpected lesson in irony after posting a viral photo on Facebook criticizing the media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition.
Terry Coffey, of Salem, posted a black-and-white photo Monday night that appears to show a World War II soldier trudging through mud carrying on his back an apparently wounded soldier who is firing a pistol.
“As I see post after post about Bruce Jenner's transition to a woman, and I hear words like, bravery, heroism, and courage, just thought I'd remind all of us what real American courage, heroism, and bravery looks like!” Coffey posted.
The post rocketed across social media over the next day, and has been shared more than 755,000 times – but Coffey said he learned a thought-provoking lesson as he searched the photo’s origins.
In a follow-up post Tuesday, Coffey said he had conducted a quick image search online and simply chose one that fit his words, but he decided after the post went viral to identify the photographer so he could credit his work.
“In an ironic twist, I have discovered that the photo is part of a documentary created by a man who was beaten nearly to death outside of a bar in 2000,” Coffey posted.
The photographer, Mark Hogancamp, spent nine days in a coma and suffered severe brain damage and other injuries, Coffey learned.
Hogancamp coped with his pain afterward by creating an imaginary world set in World War II – where he created the image that went viral years later – but Coffey was gobsmacked by something else he learned.
“Why was he nearly beaten to death by 5 strangers?” Coffey asked. “Because he was a cross-dresser.”
“I could have chosen any one of hundreds of photos depicting bravery, but I chose this one,” Coffey said. “Do I think it was an accident? No, I don't.”
He said there was an obvious lesson.
“What happened to this man was cruel, wrong, and unforgivable,” Coffey said. “Hate helps nothing, love wounds no one, and God heals all (and irony makes you think).”
Watch a trailer for a documentary film about Hogancamp: