Thomas Young, Veteran of the Iraq War, and noted anti-war activist, dies at age 34

Young in 2007, visiting Ground Zero (from the documentary Body of War)

Thomas Young was a man of strong convictions, and for that, no matter if you agree or disagree with his opinions on war, Young deserves to be honored.  As an Iraq War Army veteran, Young had signed up to defend his country after the attacks of September 11th. Only days into his deployment, however, Young was severely wounded, and before long he became the loudest voice of the anti-war movement, whether he meant to or not.

Young passed away on Monday, just a day before Veteran’s Day, but long after many had thought he would pass away. His wife, Claudia Cuellar Young, confirmed to ABC News that he passed away peacefully in his sleep. That news came as a surprise to many, especially those who followed Young’s journey closely.

Young’s time in the Army was short lived. Just five days after being deployed, he was paralyzed. It was April of 2004, Young was just 24 years old and riding in an unarmored Humvee. A sniper’s bullet rang out, severing his spine, and leaving Young instantly paralyzed him from the chest down.

Upon his return to the states, Young became one of the first veterans to openly, and passionately oppose the war in Iraq. His message became well known in the 2007 documentary about his life “Body of War.” That film, detailing his recovery from being shot in the spine, and his thoughts on the war he was injured in.

After years of suffering through pain and complications from his wounds, Young penned a letter, explaining that he planned to “reject the care that was keeping [him] alive and choose death,” according to the Huffington Post.

Young later recanted that statement, claiming instead that he wanted to go on as long as possible so he could spend time with his life. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, he told reporters “I decided I was going to hold on as long as I can until it becomes too unbearable for me.” He continued “I want to spend as much time as possible with my wife, and no decent son wants his obituary to read that he was survived by his mother.”

Young’s most inflammatory anti-war action probably came when he penned an open letter, on March 18, 2013, to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  That letter, written on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, eviscerated Bush and Cheney on behalf of wounded and dead soldiers from that war. “You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes,” the letter reads, “of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans – my fellow veterans – whose future you stole.”

The letter, and his many speeches he gave to anti-war crowds, made him a beloved figure in the anti-war movement, and a reviled figure in many other circles. Young, however, was exercising the rights that he fought for, and pointing out that the war he signed up for, was not the one that he was injured in. No matter your opinion on Young’s stance on the war, you have to respect the man for voicing his opinions and doing what he thought was best: sticking up for those who couldn’t speak any longer, and looking out for his fellow veterans: past, present, and future.


By Brett Gillin © Popular Military


  • Brett Gillin is a journalist and fiction writer based in South Florida. Many of his friends and family members have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, as Police Officers, and first responders. Gillin is currently working on several screenplays, and his writings have been published in numerous national and international publications and websites.

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