'Body of War' documentary reveals toll of warfare

"Body of War" is about a soldier who was wounded during his tour in Iraq.
Cathy Smith accepts an award from the peace studies department on Wednesday in Ellis Auditorium on behalf of her son, Tomas Young. Young was the subject of the documentary film, "Body of War," which followed his changing stances on war following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

War veteran Tomas Young was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and was serving for less than a week before being shot in the spine and paralyzed from the waist down.

MU students and Columbia residents gathered Wednesday night to view his story in the documentary film "Body of War," an anti-Iraq war film starring Young, a Kansas City native.

Although scheduled to appear, Young, 25, was ill and unable to attend the viewing.

"Tom was supposed to be here speaking," said Young's mother, Cathy Smith. "But he's in Chicago recovering in a rehab facility. He had a brain injury caused by lack of oxygen."

Missouri Students Association/Graduate Professional Council Speakers, the Center for the Study of Religion and the Professions and the peace studies department sponsored the event.

"This is the first time I've heard of a peace studies group," Smith said. "We have always studied war and we are so very good at it. Maybe by studying peace we can learn to do that as well."

Smith also spoke of the current state of her son, as well as feedback they have received from "Body of War" supporters.

"During his stay at the hospital we have been inundated with thousands of cards and letters, every one of which I have opened and read to Tomas," Smith said. "I found a new respect for my son. I never realized how many people were inspired by Tomas."

Smith also spoke of the intentions with the "Body of War" documentary, which was produced by Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue.

"When Phil Donahue approached us about making this documentary, our goal was not to inspire anyone with our story," Smith said. "Our goal was just to put a face on this war."

The documentary showed Young's struggles with losing the use of his legs and life as a married man, as well as video clips of members of Congress who supported the war and their justifications and Young's verbal accounts of warfare.

"Five days in Iraq until I got picked to go on my first mission," Young said in the film. "There were 25 of us crammed into the back of a two-and-a-half ton truck with no roof covering on top or armor on the sides. For the Iraqis on the top of the roof it just looked like, you know, ducks in a barrel. They didn't even have to aim."

In the film, Young spoke about President George Bush.

"I also would like to demand a meeting with the president because I feel he owes me some explanations as to why a soldier can volunteer to go over and fight for his country and lose his ability to walk, plus an amount of other important functions, and why I am not worth the funding for stem cell research," Young said.

Provost Brian Foster spoke at the event and said Young should be honored.

"Whatever our positions in the current war in Iraq, and for the other wars before it and after it for that matter, I think we as Americans have to agree that those that have made great sacrifices need to be honored," Foster said.

A diverse group of viewers gathered Wednesday night to watch the documentary. Some said they attended the event because of the reputable nature of the film.

"I was more interested in the filming style because I'm in a audio/visual class here at Mizzou," junior David Bunten said. "We've been recently going over documentary style. This was a popular documentary."

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