Update: this letter has gone viral on just about every site there is. It started with Truthdig, as far as we can tell, so we’ve linked to them. It is an open letter.
Bonus: Mike Smith at the Trident in Boulder noted yesterday that in the soldier’s portrait, there’s a framed picture of Trungpa Rinpoche in the background.
“Within the soul of each Vietnam veteran there is probably something that says “Bad war, good soldier.” Only now are Americans beginning to separate the war from the warrior.” ~ Max Cleland
It breaks my heart to see any of my fellow veteran soldiers suffering in this way.
It stops me in my tracks, and pulls me completely out and away from all and everything around me.
It breaks my heart in ways only a solider would know.
There is so much to be said on this topic. Perhaps, how we might provide better health care upon their return. Or, give them the tools, both physical and spiritual, to help them while they are there.
But, maybe the very best and most important thing we may do—is to simply ensure that they are not ever forgotten…or worse yet, lost in the sea of bureaucracy and paperwork.
I think sometimes we can get a bit caught up in this topic of war that we forget that there is a human heart behind the uniform.
And in doing so, we inadvertently fail to separate the “war” from the “warrior.”
We may also take for granted our responsibility in these circumstances—to be more mindful in our moving forward, so that these fine young men and women get the help, attention, and compassion that they deserve.
I could say so much more on this topic, but I think it’s best to metaphorically ‘hand the mike’ over to someone who can perhaps say it better.
The following is the complete text of a letter sent from a dying soldier, Tomas Young, and to the administration he feels is “responsible” for his extended deployment overseas and engaged in an effort in which he questions the United State’s ‘right’ of involvement. Was it really our place to be there? Tomas Young was paralyzed from chest down by a sniper’s bullet. For the past 9 years, he has been unceasingly fighting the Veteran’s Administration, the Military and our Government for the care he desperately needs.
But, after nine years of not getting much of anywhere—he’s decided to give up this final ‘battle.’ This soldier who survived a sniper’s round, is now in hospice preparing to die from the ‘wounds’ inflicted by the lack of much needed care.
This letter is his final ‘goodbye.’
And though, we may not all agree with the content, I believe we can all agree that these words provide us better insight and context into these very pressing circumstances.
“To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of
those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
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.
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.
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. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.
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. ~ Tomas Young, via Truthdig.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta