I never met Tomas Young. However, I strongly identify with his story as he and I joined the military for the same reason -- to fight those responsible for 9/11. However, I was far luckier than Tomas Young as I never had to endure the crippling, and ultimately fatal wounds, he received in Sadr City in 2004. There is no real way for me to put myself in such a situation as it would be surreal to anyone who will never face such hardships. Tomas Young has now reached a point where his pain is too unbearable to continue living. Before he goes, we should all show him a bit of recognition. It is crucial that we let him know that his voice was heard and his message will echo on for long after he is gone.
From what I have read, Tomas Young is a patriotic man who loves the United States. His outrage with the 9/11 attacks motivated him to join the military to pursue the real culprits.
After all, it was our generation's Pearl Harbor. After the attacks, many brave Americans were standing in military recruiting lines ready and eager to seek retribution for their fellow citizens who died on that fateful day. Tomas Young was one of them.
I enlisted for active duty in the U.S. Army in an effort to deploy to Afghanistan and fight those who actually attacked us on 9/11. Like Tomas Young, I found my patriotism used for an unrelated and unnecessary military conflict -- the Iraq War.
In a recent letter written to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Iraq veteran Young clarifies the misuse of his patriotism.
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love.
When I returned home from Iraq, I spoke out strongly against the war. I was able to do so without any handicaps or bodily limitations. Tomas Young fought the same fight while being confined to a wheelchair. Even with his extreme physical limitations, Tomas Young was able to convey the true, harsh realities of the Iraq war to the American people.
The power of his message came from his experience, vision, and, sadly, his crippling and now mortal injuries. His testimony is unimpeachable, as he gave his body to a needless agenda-driven war that left most of us concluding 10 years later that the Iraq war was a mistake.
Now, nine years after enduring his paralyzing wounds, Tomas Young is giving up everything -- his life. It is a sad time in our history when an American combat veteran must resort to such an extreme measure to alleviate the pain and suffering from injuries he received fighting in the name of our country.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney believe that history will judge them favorably. Both are unapologetic for their decision to create a war that took the lives of over 4,000 Americans and countless Iraqis. In addition, tens of thousands of Americans were wounded both mentally and physically. Both Bush and Cheney have said that if they had the chance to do it over again, they would take the exact same actions. It is hard for me to fathom their inability to recognize their wrongdoings, especially since we all know that every reason they gave for invading and occupying Iraq turned out to be false, and yet they still seem proud of what they have done.
For a couple politicians with no war fighting experience, it appears convenient for them to have these cavalier opinions toward a blundered war of their own creation. It is not convenient for Tomas Young, who is now forced to end his own life, as a result of their ineptitude, as well as their unwillingness to change course, even after it was apparent that they deployed many young people on a deadly military misadventure that was disconnected to 9/11 and did nothing to improve our national security.
Compared to Tomas Young, I consider myself fortunate. I am able to maneuver throughout society as a physically functioning person who can experience all of the pleasures that the human body allows. I still carry my memories of the war, but I do not have to end everything, as Tomas Young now needs to do, out of hopelessness and dire physical pain from his combat-related wounds.
The Iraq war is over -- at least for those who did not serve and those who do not know anyone who served. I have done my best to move on from it. However, Tomas Young's recent letter to former President Bush and Vice President Cheney reminded me that their failure of leadership could happen again if we, as citizens, allow it. We owe it to Tomas Young not to let this happen again.
The least we can do for Tomas Young is to not let his inspirational voice and struggle against the Iraq war be for naught. It is important that people hear his profound story of both courage and suffering. He deserves a legacy that must not be forgotten. Whenever that fateful day arrives for Tomas to take his last breath, I hope that that breath breathes new life into an American citizenry compelled not to let history repeat itself.
In the words of Erica Modugno, author of our pledge to Tomas Young:
We see you. We hear you. We will not remain passive. We will not be silent.
Farewell, Tomas, and thank you.
Please sign this pledge to Iraq veteran Tomas Young.