He Bore All This Upon His Body: Rest In Peace Tomas Young
For Veterans' Day, it should be said to the estimated 22 veterans who each day kill themselves, rendering their total far above those who died in combat, and to Tomas Young, the 34-year-old gravely wounded veteran and heartbreakingly eloquent anti-war activist who finally died Monday, and to all those surviving troubled veterans - it should be said, not the vapid "Thank you for your service," but, "We are sorry, because we failed you." From Tomas' searing last letter to Bush and Cheney: "We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned."
Starting in 2012, according to a chilling military medical report, suicide rather than combat has been for the first time in history the leading cause of death in the military. An estimated, staggering 22 veterans a day kill themselves, their deaths outranking those from not just war but cancer, heart disease, homicide, transportation accidents and all other causes. Of those surviving 2.6 million veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, more than half struggle with physical and mental health problems stemming from their service and what they did in its questionable name.
Until Monday, Tomas Young was one of the most visible among them. Chris Hedges wrote memorably about the physical and psychic horrors Young endured "for a war that should never have been fought..for the lies of politicians....for war profiteers....for the careers of generals....for a cheerleader press....for a complacent public that made war possible. He bore all this upon his body. He was crucified.” William Rivers Pitt likewise excoriates the intolerable "pornography of America's global killing spree" and the "grim fact that the debate in this country right now is not about whether the killing is wrong, but about the most morally acceptable way of going about that killing...It is the killing, it is the permanent war, it is our deranged national priorities (which) require the serial deaths of all those innocents to maintain our economic health."
Tomas Young's searing last letter to Bush and Cheney said it best. He wrote on behalf of "the human detritus your war has left behind," from the "hundreds of thousands of young men and women (you sent) to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage" to "some 1 million Iraqi dead (and) countless Iraqi wounded....those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief."
"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."
The film, Body of War, tells his story. May he, at last, find peace.