The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell : An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq
"A tremendous book... incredibly gripping and incredibly well-written... I commend [Crawford] for not only the service, but for the account of it, which is really a wonderful read and I urge everyone to go out there and grab it." -Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
John Crawford joined the Florida National Guard to pay for his college tuition, willingly exchanging one weekend a month and two weeks a year for a free education. But in fall 2002, one semester short of graduating and newly married -- in fact, on his honeymoon -- he was called to active duty and sent to the front lines in Iraq.
"We crossed the berm the same day as the Army's Third Infantry Division, leading the invasion of Iraq. When the Third Division was sent home, our National Guard unit was passed around the armed forces like a virus: the 108th Airborne, First Marine Expeditionary, 101st Airborne, and finally the First Armored Division. They were all sent home, heroes of the war. Meanwhile, my unit stayed on, my soul rotting, our unit outlasted by no one in our tenure there."
Crawford and his unit spent months upon months patrolling the streets of Baghdad, occupying a hostile city. During the breaks between patrols, Crawford began writing nonfiction stories about what he and his fellow soldiers witnessed and experienced.
"The world hears war stories told by reporters and retired generals who keep extensive notebooks and journals. They carry pens as they walk, whereas I carry a machine gun. War stories are told to those who have not experienced the worst in man. And to the listener's ears they can sound like glory and heroism. People mutter phrases like, 'I don't know how you did it.' And they look at you wondering how you have changed, wondering if you have forever lost the moral dilemma associated with taking another person's life."
In a voice at once raw and immediate, Crawford's stories vividly chronicle the daily life of a young soldier in Iraq--the excitement, the horror, the anger, the tedium, the fear, the camaraderie. But all together, the stories gradually uncover something more: the transformation of a group of young men, innocents, into something entirely different.
"I have too many stories to tell, and if just a few of them get read, the ones that real people will understand, then maybe someone will know what we did here. It won't assuage the suffering inside me, inside all of us. It won't bring back anyone's son or brother or wife. It will simply make people aware, if only for one glimmering moment, of what war is really like."
Those stories became this book, a haunting and powerful, brutal but compellingly honest book--punctuated with both humor and heartbreak--that represents an important document revealing the actual experience of waging the War in Iraq, as well as the introduction of a literary voice forged in the most intense of circumstances.
Having joined the National Guard for the tuition benefits, Crawford, like many of his contemporaries, never expected to do any heavy lifting. Early on, he admits his is "the story of a group of college students... who wanted nothing to do with someone else's war." But when his Florida National Guard unit was activated, he was shipped to Kuwait shortly before the invasion of Iraq. Armed with shoddy equipment, led by incompetent officers and finding release in the occasional indulgence in pharmaceuticals, Crawford cared little for the mission and less for the Iraqis. "Mostly we were guarding gas stations and running patrols," he explains. As for Iraqi civilians, "I didn't give a shit what happened to any of them," he confesses after inadvertently saving an Iraqi boy from a mob beating. Crawford's disdain grows with each extension of his tour, and he leaves Iraq broke, rudderless and embittered. Unfortunately, Crawford dresses up his story in strained metaphors and tired clich?s such as "truth engulfed me like a storm cloud" and "you can never go back home." Despite its pretensions, Crawford's story is not the classic foot soldier's memoir and should provide enough gristle to please military memoir fans.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Great book - needs to be made into a movie
Posted May 18, 2010 by Kip , Grantham, NHI blew through this in two evenings, just one of those books you can't put down. I think this one will make a great movie. If you read this, John, I hope your are doing ok now, and I would like to see more of your work soon. Most of us vets knew what sacrifices your were making, but there are more that need this awakening. Thanks!
2 . Best Book on Iraq Soldiers Life Read Yet
Posted February 16, 2010 by madcelt , HalifaxThis is a no holds barred experience of one of the 'good' guys. The Iraqis hate the Americans, and to survive the Americans think of them as subhuman. The life of a soldier doing his job and trying to survive in a mad world.
April 03, 2006
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