WASHINGTON, April 7, 2013 — Tomas Young is a veteran of the Iraq War who, after being severely injured in Iraq, returned home and began publically speaking out against the continued U.S. occupation. Young was also the subject of Phil Donahue’s critically acclaimed documentary, “Body of War,” which documents Young’s everyday struggles as a wounded veteran.
Now, after years of living in pain, Young has decided to peacefully end his life. The announcement comes after Young released a written letter to members of the Bush Administration on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. In the letter, Young condemns officials in President Bush’s cabinet who refuse to apologize for their support of the Iraq War.
The questions for this interview, which were sent to Young via email, delve into Young’s decision to end his life, his opposition to the Iraq War, his letter, his reaction to America’s continuing conflicts overseas, and how he wants others to remember him.
Kevin Kelly: Can you provide some background as to why you have decided to end your life?
Tomas Young: I called my recruiter on the day President Bush stood atop the WTC rubble and announced that America was going after those responsible for the attacks. Which at the time was Bin Laden in Afghanistan. So I went to Basic Training in GA in early 2002 and eventually was stationed at Ft. Hood in central TX and everything still looked like we were on course with a fight in Afghanistan.
After I’d been a soldier for a year and a half, I learned that we were going to Iraq, a country I didn’t think deserved our time and money. So I went to Iraq because I joined the army and I did what I was told. After five days in Sadr City, I was shot and paralyzed from the chest down and was sent to Walter Reed army hospital and finally home in Kansas City, MO.
In May of ‘08 I suffered a blood clot in my right lung and had my brain go without oxygen for hours while I slept. A few days later I woke up and found I’d lost a lot dexterity and strength in my upper body. I could no longer dress or feed myself and after watching my body continually decline over the past four years I decided to one day end my own life rather than watch my body regress further.
Kelly: On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, what inspired you to write your letter to members of the Bush Administration?
Young: I just wanted to try to open their eyes to the havoc they unleashed on us, the American people.
Kelly: There was much cheerleading and capitulation from the American media in the buildup to the Iraq war. Many who questioned the conflict were fired from their posts, Phil Donahue being a prime example. Do you believe that the media have learned from their mistakes, or will we see them repeat their previous mistakes?
Young: I can only hope the media have learned from their mistakes, but only time will tell.
Kelly: While much of the coverage of your letter has focused on your remarks about the Bush Administration, what are your thoughts on the continued armed conflicts that are occurring under the Obama Administration?
Young: While I supported the mission in Afghanistan, the support ended once Bin Laden was killed, and unless we are attacked again, and I hope we’re not, America should not be engaged in conflict overseas.
Kelly: What do you want people to remember the most about you? What would you like your legacy to be?
Young: I was once told by a Sergeant of mine that I “was a good guy but a bad soldier.” And I was. I mean, I always did my job and got things done, but I wasn’t good at shaving, shining my boots, or ironing my uniform. But I was a good guy to be around and that’s how I want to be remembered.
Kelly: With so much uncertainty in the world, what advice would you give to the young people of this nation/generation?
Young: My advice to everyone is do what makes you happy. Whether it’s helping your fellow travelers in life or just doing things for yourself, do what “you” want.
Young is bedridden and in hospice care in Missouri, where laws prohibit assisted suicide. He plans to reach his first wedding anniversary with wife Claudia Cuellar, on April 20, after which he will take steps, including refusing food, to end his life.
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