Ten years since the start of the war in Iraq, and nine years since getting shot in the spine by a sniper after being in Iraq for only five days, Tomas Young, a U.S. Army veteran, has decided to kill himself.
Since sustaining his initial injury, Young, who is now 33, has been one of the most vocal members of the activist group Iraq Veterans Against the War, even starring in the award-winning documentary Body of War, which followed him as he attempted to make sense of his circumstances. Unfortunately, Young has also been forced to watch as his body and abilities have slowly withered away, a cruel counterweight to his once boundless enthusiasm. At first he was only paralyzed from the waist down, but in 2008 his condition worsened when he suffered a pulmonary embolism and anoxic brain injury, ailments that further hampered his mobility and his speech. It's been downhill from there. In November, Young had his colon removed, and his wife, Claudia Cuellar, now feeds her husband liquid food through a tube.
After nine years in and out of hospitals, Young, who lives in Kansas City, told the Kansas City Star this week that he's decided to end his life, saying simply, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." After trying to help him live for almost a decade, doctors have told Young they can't help him with his final wish. So sometime in the next few weeks he will start to refuse food, water, and medication. He told the Star he thinks it will only take about three days for him to die after that.
In an open letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney published on Truthdig earlier this week, Young wrote that the two men "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."
Young concludes with this:
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.
[Image via Democracy Now]