Wounded Iraq vet now says he will remain alive

By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON

The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Tomas Young, the paralyzed Iraq war veteran who announced earlier this spring that he was ready to die, said that he has decided to live for now.

“I decided I was going to hold on as long as I can until it becomes too unbearable for me,” Young said in an interview Monday afternoon at his Kansas City, North home.

He said he would no longer set a date for when he will end his life. Rather, he will decide at the time his pain medication stops keeping up with the pain, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/12GUu6m ).

He lives his life on a day-by-day basis.

“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,” he said.

Young announced his decision during a special screening of the 2007 documentary “Body of War” Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet. The screening was held to celebrate the life of the Kansas City veteran.

Young, who had planned to attend, said he was unable to go because of recurring nausea. Instead he appeared by Internet .

Young said the decision grew out of the love he has for his wife, Claudia Cuellar, and how he would miss her .

“I don’t want her to go through what I know she is going to have to go through when I’m gone,” he said.

He said the media interest in his decision to end his life made him realize that Cuellar and his mother would bear the brunt of questioning about his death.

“I figured I would spend as much time as I can dealing with that so they don’t have to or are more comfortable and ready to deal with it when they do,” Young said.

Young had been in Iraq less than a week when, on April 4, 2004, he and other soldiers were wounded while in the back of an open-air truck in a rescue convoy outside Baghdad. He was 24 years old.

When he returned home, he became an activist against the Iraq war.

He was interviewed on “60 Minutes” and became the subject of “Body of War,” which was produced by Phil Donahue. Musician Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam was inspired by Young to compose songs for the film.

The documentary dealt with the congressional debate over the war resolution and took an unflinching look at Young’s daily medical trials.

In March, Young told The Kansas City Star that that he was preparing to die and that he would refuse nourishment, water and life-extending medication.

His friends and family understood.

Young said he changed his mind after his first wedding anniversary on April 20.

“As much time as I can have with him I want to have,” Cuellar said. “But if it’s too painful for him, whenever he feels for him that he’s ready to go, I will be ready whenever he’s ready. As long as I can keep him and he’s comfortable, that would be really nice.”

Young said Monday that he remains at home under hospice care. He said he’s doing fairly well.

“Some days I have good days,” Young said. “Some days I have bad days, just like everybody else. My bad days are worse than most people’s.”

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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