Body of War Film Review - Liberty and Limbs

“Soldiers voting for President Bush are like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders,” says Tomas Young, the 25-year-old paralyzed veteran at the heart of this story. Awed by the President’s speech on 9/11, Kansas City native, Tomas, then 22, decided that he was going to fight those terrorists. Patriotically enlisting in the army, he assumed he would be shipped off to fight in Afghanistan. Bush’s declaration of war on Iraq changed that. So March 2004, after Tomas had completed his basic training, Tomas arrived in Iraq.  

A few days later, while traveling on his first mission in an unarmored Humvee, he was shot in the left collarbone. “We were shooting ducks in a barrel.” There had been no preparation at training camp for this type of fighting and not enough protection for the men. Military people go to war with the knowledge that they might not return.  No one expects to return unable to function.

Instantly paralyzed and unconscious Tomas was evacuated first to Kuwait, then to Germany, and finally to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where his mother, Cathy Smith, assisted taking care of him.  It was there he met Phil Donahue, the father of the modern talk show, who became interested in Tomas’ story.  

Phil enlisted the aide of producer Ellen Spiro and Karen Berstein from Texas and film editor Bernadine Colish. Eddie Vedder composed several original songs including one “ …no more innocents dying, no more Presidents lying.

Returning to his home state, Tomas then had to learn basic skills all over again while reuniting with Brie, his fiancée. They do marry but unfortunately the pressures of the Tomas’ new lifestyle – draining foley caths, emesis basins, the inability to have an erection, and all the care required – proved too much of a toll on the relationship.

Active in Iraq Veterans against the war, Tomas went out speaking about the horrors and how wrong this war really is. He teamed up with Cindy Sheehan who galvanized world media.  

Tomas and her son had been shot on the same day. Tomas came back.  Her son did not.

Body of War: Thomas Young wounded in action

Many facts were brought up in the movie, including that the veterans of prior wars received much better and longer medical care than those of the Iraq conflict are currently getting. Tomas was cared for only for a few months rather than a year or more as some from Vietnam.  

The film deals with the realistic personal conflicts and trials that this warrior turned anti-warrior has had to face.

The documentary is interspersed with House and Senate members parroting the White House statements as to why we have to be in Iraq and those, like Senator Robert Byrd – Democrat from West Virginia-- who opposed the war.  Only 23 senators vetoed the war.

The documentary film clearly states the support that those who enlist should expect (very little) and should make any potential enlistee pause before he signs the papers. The pundits talk, but it is our children mainly from the lower economic class and minorities who die.

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