Tomas Young (November 30, 1979 – November 10, 2014) was an American military veteran of the Iraq War. In 2004, he was wounded and paralyzed by a bullet to the spine five days after he reached Iraq. One of the first veterans to come out publicly against the war, Young actively protested against the war after he returned to the United States. When his physical condition worsened in 2013 due to various medical complications, Young chose to go into hospice care. He later reversed that decision and accepted medical treatment until he died in 2014.
|Born||Tomas Vincent Young
November 30, 1979
Kansas City, Missouri
|Died||November 10, 2014 (aged 34)
|Occupation||U.S. Soldier; War protester|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
||United States Army|
|Years of service||2001–2004|
|Unit||1st Cavalry Division|
|Spouse(s)||Brie Young (m. 2005)
Two days after the September 11 attacks, Young was inspired by President George W. Bush to enlist in the United States Army. He hoped both to gain the chance to attend college through the G.I. Bill and, in his words, "exact some form of retribution" on those who caused the attacks.
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.
Body of WarEdit
The Last LetterEdit
|I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.|
|—Tomas Young, The Last Letter |
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, and the interview was conducted at his home in Kansas City. Although Young had contemplated suicide on various occasions, he had 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 to former President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. In the letter, Young accused 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"; condemned "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 said that he believed that the Bush Administration considered military personnel and veterans to be expendable, and expressed hope that U.S. leaders would have the courage to apologize for the damage wrought by the war.
Young died on November 10, 2014, in Seattle, Washington. In November 2014, Chris Hedges and Ralph Nader each wrote a column 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."
Tomas Young's WarEdit
Author Mark Wilkerson interviewed Tomas Young several times in 2013 and 2014. He wrote a biography Tomas Young's War, published by Haymarket Books in 2016. The book is also based on Wilkerson's interviews with Young's mother, brother and wife, and close friends, including celebrities Eddie Vedder, Tom Morello and Phil Donahue. Artist Shepard Fairey created the book's cover art.
- Hedges, Chris. "The Crucifixion of Tomas Young". Truthdig. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
- Wing, Nick. "Tomas Young, Dying Iraq Veteran, Chooses To Live: I'll 'Hold On As Long As I Can'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- Young, Tomas. "Antiwar Veteran". ZCommunications. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
- Gay, Patricia. "Tomas Young, disabled veteran, tells audience he'll commit suicide". The Ridgefield Press. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
- The Last Letter, A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran , Truthdig, March 18, 2013
- Young, Tomas. "The Last Letter". Truthdig. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
- Mai-Duc, Christine (11 November 2014). "Tomas Young, Iraq war veteran and antiwar activist, dies at 34" – via LA Times.
- "Iraq War veteran & critic Tomas Young dies at 34".
- Hedges, Chris (November 17, 2014). The Last Days of Tomas Young. Truthdig. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
- Nader, Ralph (November 17, 2014). The Angry Soldier. CounterPunch. Retrieved November 18, 2014
- "Tomas Young's War". haymarketbooks.org.