R.I.P. Tomas Young
(November 30, 1979 – November 10, 2014)
was an American military veteran of the Iraq War. He was paralyzed by a bullet to the spine while deployed in Iraq. One of the first veterans to come out publicly against the war, he spent most of his life after the war protesting. Young’s conditions worsened due to various medical complications and he chose to go on hospice care, awaiting his death. He later reversed that decision.
Two days after the September 11 attacks, Young was inspired by President George W. Bush to enlist in the United States Army. There he hoped to earn money for college through the G.I. Bill and, in his words, “exact some form of retribution” on those who caused 9/11.
On April 4, 2004, five days after being sent to Iraq, Young was shot while riding in an open, unarmored truck during an ambush staged by rebels in Sadr City. One of the bullets pierced his spine and left him paralyzed from the chest down.
He returned home to Kansas City, Missouri and joined the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). He later became a public critic of the Iraq War.
Body of War is a documentary directed by Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue which follows Young as he adapts to his paralyzed body and questions his motives to enlist in the army.
In March 2013, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges published an interview with Young about his worldview and circumstances. Young was in hospice care at the time of the interview, which was conducted at his home in Kansas City. Although he has contemplated suicide on various occasions, he decided “to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away. This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes.” He later changed his mind, saying “I want to spend as much time as possible with my wife, and no decent son wants his obituary to read that he was survived by his mother.”
That same month, on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, Truthdig published “The Last Letter” by Young directed towards George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. In the letter, Young accuses Bush and Cheney of war crimes; says that millions of Americans and Iraqis know “who you [Bush and Cheney] are and what you have done”; condemns “the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration” saying: “I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned.” He further states his belief that he and other veterans were viewed as expendable by the Bush Administration and ends by expressing hope that U.S. leaders will have the courage to apologize for the damage wrought by the war.
Young died on November 10, 2014 in Seattle. In November 2014, both Chris Hedges and Ralph Nader each, wrote columns on Young’s passing. Hedges stated that “Young hung on as long as he could. Now he is gone. He understood what the masters of war had done to him, how he had been used and turned into human refuse.” And Nader observed that
“In the annals of military history, moral courage is much rarer than physical courage, in part because of the long-lasting sanctions against dissenters and those who speak truth to power about the faults in our own society. Tomas Young had both moral and physical courage. His example should be heeded by young soldiers in the future who are ordered by their gravely flawed politicians to make the ultimate sacrifice for their leaders’ illegal follies and ambitions.”
photo via: http://www.nationofchange.org/2014/11/11/veterans-day-remembering-tomas-young/
Karin Kamp | Billmoyers.com | Op-Ed