Body of War’s vet final protest

IMG_7389-tomas-young-dig-804-croppedThe disability community was first introduced to the feisty Tomas Young, a C5-6 quad from Kansas City, Missouri in Body of War, a profound must-see documentary (no matter your views on the Iraq War) back in 2008. And boy has his life changed since we’ve last heard from him.

If you haven’t seen this film by the way, please do. The film was produced/directed by Phil Donohue (nearly making him go broke in the process) who was driven to share Tomas’ story after meeting him at Walter Reed Medical Center in 2005. They spent nearly 4 years together, with Phil compiling footage, showing every aspect of this young quad’s life; the good, bad and the ugly. Tomas is now 33 and in really bad health.

The film’s main purpose was to show Tomas’ antiwar stance, which he came into after returning home from the war. It also questions the motives of the war itself. Tomas had joined the military to “defeat the Taliban,” but after 5 days of being there, he was shot by a sniper. He was suddenly a newly injured 24 year old quad, and he was not too happy about it.

The film shows it all, from his mom trying to catheterize him in a car on their way to an antiwar rally to meeting with Sen. Robert Byrd in D.C. It shows the journey of a young man who wants to expose the realities, and dare we say, stupidities of war.

It also shows an especially difficult thing to watch – the lack of VA benefits. You’d think the VA would provide some amazing benefits, but that’s not the case. Tomas has to fight to get a wheelchair that fits him, fight to get the care he deserves, fight, fight, fight. It’s a crazy thing to watch.

But today, Tomas’ activism has turned into an end-of-life last act. A few years ago Tomas had a blood clot in his lungs that burst, affecting his brain, and taking away his ability to speak. His health has decreased to the point (including chronic pain and several bed sores), that he no longer wants to live. He plans to stop receiving food in his feeding tube in the next month.

In a final act of protest, (at the advice from Ralph Nader) Tomas wrote an “Open Letter” to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. It was published by the antiwar site Truthdig, and accuses them of war crimes. He writes, “you know what you have done,” and condemns “the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration.” He ends the letter asking for an apology (one he’ll likely never get).

I am sad. I’m sad Tomas got paralyzed, I’m sad the film didn’t bring him any money so he couldn’t pay for health needs that weren’t being met, and most of all, I’m sad his health has gotten to the point of no return.

I can’t believe I just caught wind of his health now. Why Tomas never put up an official site sharing his views and life, will forever boggle me (even a free blog). That would be a great platform for him, especially now.

But he’s made up his mind. He’s shared his views in various media outlets and soon he’ll stop talking to the outside worls altogether. And then…with his beautiful Buddhist wife at his side, at in-home hospice care in the not too distant future, Tomas will pass from the world. And when he does, I pray he finds true piece.

Have you seen Body of War? What do you think of Tomas’ views?

Read Tomas’ Open Letter to President Bush and Vice President Cheney

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