The brief yet highly courageous life of a gravely wounded Iraq War veteran.
Tomas Young, born in 1979 and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, had profound doubts about being shipped to fight in the Iraq War in April 2004. As U.S. Army veteran and author Wilkerson (Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend, 2009, etc.) points out in this straightforward, sympathetic account, Young believed that the United States should be targeting Afghanistan rather than Iraq, and he was appalled that his unit received no training on Iraq or its people. Still, he realized he had to go (the military “kind of own you at that point,” he recalled). Less than a week into his deployment in Sadr City, Iraq, on what was a spectacularly ill-organized and disastrous mission, the truck he was stuffed into came under ambush and was riddled with bullets, leaving many soldiers wounded, included Young, who suffered a severed spinal cord. He spent weeks at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and then months at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis—though it was clear that Young was paralyzed from the midtorso down and would need constant medical care for the rest of his life. His mother proved to be his solid support, as well as successive wives. Moreover, talk show host and anti-war activist Phil Donahue resolved to make a documentary on Young and his emerging activism in the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. The subsequent film, Body of War, co-directed by Ellen Spiro, was a critical but not commercial success, though it gained Young national support and attention. After nine years of living with his severe disability and all the accompanying ailments and distress, which Wilkerson delineates in detail here, Young was ready to take his own life—before he died quietly in his sleep on Nov. 10, 2014, at the age of 34.
An extremely poignant statement on human vulnerability and the devastation of war.