Monday, December 19, 2011
"The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell" by John Crawford
"An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq"
A Carolina Parrothead book review
My half-assed twenty-one year military career ended in 2005 with me joyfully retiring from the National Guard and on my last day wearing the uniform there were no parties, hugs, much less any tears by me or the leadership of the unit I belonged. If anything, I would be willing to bet money that if I crossed the minds of those I left behind it was the passing thought of old fashioned “good riddance.” See I never could adjust to the high speed National Guard where troops gleefully accepted multiple two-week summer camps in one year, went to required army training schools, and did everything an active duty soldier did while supposedly a “citizen soldier.”
I had a wife, kids and a job and as much as patriotism is a mile-wide down here in South Carolina, in the area I live I have never found its true depth more than an inch or two. The best example of this was the day I inadvertently heard a few coworkers at my previous job whining because one of them was going to have to cover my weekend shift so I could attend my National Guard drill. Now this was 2003 with us well into the Iraq War. You would have expected patriotic rednecks to be all about supporting the troops but my service to the country was cutting into their deer hunting time and they had their priorities.
The actual statistics are mind blowing but somewhere around less than one percent of the country served in Iraq or our current conflict in Afghanistan. It is fascinating really, two jetliners flown by terrorist’s crash into the World Trade Center buildings. A third flies into the Pentagon and a forth is stopped by courageous passengers and not only does the president at the time just tell us to travel and shop but only a very few Americans find their way to an Armed Forces recruiting station.
Its far too easy for a civilian to stick a magnetic yellow ribbon on the end of their SUV, say nice things supporting whatever war we happen to be fighting, and believe they are supporting the troops. Many will not like what I am about to write but most Americans are so ignorant about what these men and women have to put up with that it is criminal. Movies portray glamorous fight scenes and non-serving pundits talk about "doing one's duty" without ever serving one day themselves ignoring the the hardships carried by soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and their families.
That’s all ancient history now but with the very recent departure of American troops from Iraq I am sure of one thing, it is that given this country’s short attention span various people will quickly try to rewrite this segment of United States history to their benefit, while many will do their best to forget about it all together. For anyone who cares I have to urge you to read a book that will give a first person account of how one guy was swept up into the ill planned and executed madness that cost the lives of nearly 4500 American servicemen and women, an untold amount of Iraqi lives, and trillions of dollars.
The author’s name is John Crawford and like many, he joined the National Guard to pay for college. One semester shy of graduation and very recently married, he finds himself mobilized and soon on the fronts lines in Iraq. Before anyone starts complaining, yes both he and I raised our right hands swearing to uphold and defend the United States Constitution. But we did not enlist to become sacrificial lambs for corporate imperialism or a civilian population overwhelmingly preoccupied with their narcissistic lives.
John Crawford's book offers a view into the weary world and mind of a combat soldier. It isn't glamorous and offers nothing in the way to justify the war in Iraq. It is about one man trying to survive and keep some small part of his sanity dealing with things that are completely alien to the fat and lazy civilians for whom our wars are at best episodes in some low rated reality show. If you want to feel the terror, stress, and utter frustration of a war that many will spend a lifetime trying to figure out I highly recommend you read his book.