Days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tomas Young, then a 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., made a decision repeated by many other Americans around the country: He was going to enlist in the military in hopes of getting even with the enemies who had helped coordinate the deaths of nearly 3,000 men, women and children.
Less than three years later, Young's Army service placed him not in Afghanistan -- where then-President George W. Bush had told the nation the terrorist plot had originated -- but in Iraq. On April 4, 2004, just five days into his first tour, Young's convoy was attacked by insurgents. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spine. Another struck his knee. Young would never walk again, and in fact, for the next nearly nine years, he would suffer a number of medical setbacks that allowed him to survive only with the help of extensive medical procedures and the care of his wife, Claudia.
The incident turned Young into one of the most vocal veteran critics of the Iraq War. He has, however, saved his most powerful criticism for what he claims will be his last. Young says he'll die soon, but not before writing a letter to Bush and former Vice President Cheney on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.
From Young's letter, published on TruthDig:
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. 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.
Young goes on to attack the "cowardice" of Bush and Cheney for avoiding military service themselves, and to encourage them to "stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness."
Young was the subject of the 2007 documentary "Body of War," which was about his recovery process and the Iraq War. At a February screening of the film, Young told the audience that he planned to end his life in April.
According to the Ridgefield Press, Young announced that he would stop taking all nourishment and life-extending medications at that time. He's since said that the deterioration to his body from the injury and ensuing complications would make it physically impossible for him to commit suicide in any other way.
"It's time," he told the audience over Skype, while seated beside his wife. "When I go I want be alert and aware."
Young spoke more about his decision in a recent interview with journalist and Iraq War critic Chris Hedges.
“I made the decision to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away," he said. "This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes. I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note."
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.