A Patriot Returns Home Paralyzed and Disillusioned

Follow the story of Tomas Young, a paralyzed veteran of the Iraq war, as he battles with his injuries and works to find himself back home in the United States.

  • Young struggles with life as a paralyzed veteran, suffering frustration and humiliation as he attempts to reintergrate society and resume as normal an existence as possible.
    Photo by Fotolia/Minerva-Studio
  • “Tomas Young’s War” shares everything, as unflinchingly honest as Tomas himself: the depression, the pain, the love, and laughter . . . the life of this man whose world was turned upside down by an Iraqi bullet more than ten years ago. Throughout, it serves as a powerful testament to the true cost of war.
    Cover courtesy Haymarket Books

In Tomas Young’s War (Haymarket Books, 2016), by Mark Wilkerson, the reader is put alongside Young as he struggles with life as a paralyzed veteran, suffering frustration and humiliation as he attempts to reenter society and resume as normal an existence as possible. It shows his fight to balance his precarious health with his drive to speak out for veterans care and against the war, and the impact his catastrophic injuries had on his family and his relationships.

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

One of the first things Tomas Young did when he returned to Kansas City was to call Sergeant First Class Powell, the NCO who had ordered him to grab his stuff and climb aboard the LMTV on Black Sunday. “I didn’t get hold of him, I had to leave him a message,” Tomas recalled. He left an abrupt, “Hey, Sergeant Powell — it’s Private Young. I’d just like you to know that if I could, I’d like to shit down your throat. Bye.”

A particularly striking scene in Born on the Fourth of July, Oliver Stone’s cinematic rendition of Ron Kovic’s memoir, is when Kovic returns home in his wheelchair and is greeted by friends and family for the first time. It’s a searing, awkward moment; unmentioned truths flash over people’s faces as they are confronted with the jarring reality of seeing their loved one in an unfamiliar position of weakness and vulnerability.

Tomas remembered this scene from his own life — the varied reactions of close friends and family upon seeing him at home for the first time, paralyzed. “The adult ones, or at least the ones that were decent poker players, they acted like it didn’t bother them,” he said, “which was the way I wanted people to react. And then some… mostly women in the family, would bawl over me and tell me it was God’s plan. And I got sick and tired of hearing that.”

He didn’t just hear it from family members. Not long after he’d returned home, Tomas remembers “these Baptist kids walking down the street in front of my house, and they were talking to my brother and sister and her friends. And they were trying to tell them about the wonderful life that you’d have if you accept Jesus into your heart, and I rolled out there and I said, ‘So, people have been telling me that this is part of God’s plan. If you guys seem to have such a direct line to the old man, tell him what plan am I supposed to ascertain from this? What am I supposed to do now? What’s the next part of the plan?’”

Facebook Instagram Twitter