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.

19 comments:

John McElveen said...

Great honest commentary! Thanks Buddy!

John

Nance said...

"If you want to feel the terror, stress, and utter frustration of a war..."

America has said, "No, thank you." And that means we're more likely to do it again.

Good review, Bum. Don't close your eyes.

Beach Bum said...

John: Forgive, my coffee maker is busted and I am irritable.

Nance: Yeah, and while I take no joy in being a prophet of doom, no country can act that way and ultimately survive. I would have written lose our soul but Americans largely sold theirs years ago.

Cloudia said...

can't believe it's over (yeah right, for many it will never be over)

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

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Windsmoke. said...

I'm guessing a lot of American people feel the same way as you do and are now delighted each and every soldier is finally on there way home, lets hope the sacrifice and effort was worth it :-).

Mr. Charleston said...

Don't know what to say about this BB. All soldiers these days did indeed voluntarily raise their right hands and most, not to defend the constitution, but for altruistic reasons, they need a job or want the education and retirement benefits, etc. That makes it hard for me, a veteran draftee, to get very emotional about our modern day "heroes."

MRMacrum said...

I believe war should never be entered voluntarily. And while I celebrated the end of the draft having lived through the draft process as a piece of potential cannon fodder, I now wonder if we should not bring back the draft. Maybe support for unwise military expeditions would diminish when the sons and daughters of those who pull our strings are forced to ante up.

Mr Charleston actually brought this notion back to me with a recent comment on my blog.

Randal Graves said...

Pass out special brownies in the halls of power and maybe a smidgen more war can be confined to games of Risk. Kamchatka is mine, bastards.

Life As I Know It Now said...

This comment has nothing to do with your post so sorry about that. Just letting you know I've changed my blog from Liberality to Life As I Know It Now in the attempt to throw off ex's and such who want to read my blog.

Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for the read and book recommend Bum. I cant even recall off hand all the folk's I knew (still to this day) that have joined military branches to get a college education, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh ... including my neice, who is serving right now in Afghanistan. I was a shop foreman of a printing shop year's back, and one of the crew was a guy named Steve Derow ... a real on the ball worker, sharp and great work ... he too had the 2 week run's to attend in the Guard ... I remember him asking me (one of his favourite saying's was "18 Pearl's" ... Pearl beer Texas) before he took off to the camp ... "Well boss ... how bout helping me put down about 18 Pearl's tonight ..." ... he was referring to getting drunk of course ... which sounded good to me! But yeah ... I actually loathed Steve being gone for a couple week's to be honest, he was such a great crew member in the shop, although I never told him that. : )

Merry Christmas Bum to you and your's ....

Michael Williams said...

@BB Thanks for the recommendation on the book. Probably won't read it though I agree with you on the %99 who have no clue. I'm sad for all who have suffered in W's "war on terror". But we will line up like sheep once again in the future to give our lives or our children's lives to to the patriotic BS and nice enticements thrown down to us. For those of us who stood up and screamed "Hell no, we won't go" in the 60's or learned it the hard way by fighting in that war and the subsequent police actions then didn't stand up to Bush and Cheney's war we are the ones to blame. We let our kids down by endorsing the same humbug. And most of us did endorse it by our silence.

Beach Bum said...

Cloudia: For a bunch of people I know personally, that war will never be over.

Windsmoke: I hope so myself. Way back when Bush and Cheney had nearly everyone convinced Saddam had WMD's I was for the war. But a little knowledge is a scary thing and when none turned up I knew something was very fishy. With all the intelligene gathering abilities of the United States spy agencies you cannot tell me the Bush people made a "mistake." While I was active duty for years all I heard about was how our spy satellites could image licence plates on cars from space. Throw in the sensing equipment used for NASA space probes, which had military applications,the United States knew from the get-go that while Saddam was a blood thristy killer he had no WMD's.

Mr. Charleston: Yeah, us modern era soldiers did enlist for things like education benefits and pay checks but it still does not take away that the United States did make an implied promise not to toss us into some meatgrinder so rich people could make even more money.

Civilized and sensible leaders only go to war when all other avenues have been exhausted. The fact that there are records suggesting Bush and Cheney had their eyes on taking out Saddam before 9/11 happened speaks volumes for me.

Mike Crum: I firmly believe that if the draft was still in effect these wars our leaders so easily get involved in would not happen. I use to believe that a draft would be brought back at somepoint but that would raise too many questions from a population that various Elites want to keep distracted.

Randal: Getting back to what I mentioned to Mike, if the sons and daughters of those polishing seats in Congress were drafted our leaders would search harder for ways to stay out of wars.

Life As We Know It: Got you updated on my blogroll.

Ranch: Yeah, I had major issues getting time off to do my required National Guard drills in the peaceful 1990's. My bosses just did not want to let me go.

Mike Williams: Amen! I got in serious trouble at weekend drill of Decemeber, 2003. It was the annual Christmas party and I had brought me young son with me. During the party an Army captain said something about my son joining the Guard when he was old enough and I quickly told that officer that with all the Chickenhawks avoiding service I would never let my son enlist.

He did not like my attitude.

Green Monkey said...

I raise my coffee cup WAY UP to that! an honest commentary indeed!

Mr. Charleston said...

Wars have always been fought for profit. The draft won't change that. What it will change is getting more people involved and the likelihood of more people raising hell over it, i.e. Vietnam.

Mike Williams said...

Toward the end of Vietnam fought mostly by draftees, there was so much division in the ranks because the soldiers agreed with the protesters at home that US was forced to use carpet bombing and napalm and ineffective if deadly strategy.

goatman said...

Nice duty, national guard,during Nam it was an easy way out of the draft. But Bush changed all that: send the guard to war and avoid the problems of conscription (those messy radicals and all.)
You were lucky not to have been sent to needless wars.

Beach Bum said...

Mr. Charleston: That is exactly my point. From my point of view here amongst the Chickenhawk suburbanites they are all for someone else's kid going to fight the evil bad guys out to rape and convert their daughters and force Islam on the nation. These suburbanites feel their child should never be put in harm's way.

Mike Williams: One of my battalion Sergeant Majors was a draftee from the streets of Detroit. To sum up his story he did one tour over in Vietnam and while this is not an exact quote he more or less said the jungles of Vietnam were safer than the streets he grew up on so he reenlisted and ultimately did two more tours in Southeast Asia. Made the Army a career, and as our senior battalion NCO he enjoyed telling us young troops at the time about how bad it was over there in the closing days.

Needless to say to this day I look upon him as sort of a hero, he cared about the soldiers under him making sure they had everything they needed and were trained correctly. On the other hand he did not for a second let anyone pull any slacker, racist, drugs related, or any other crap. If you did something wrong your world had ended and you eventually wished you had never been born.

Goatman: I was burned out and ready to retire. My buddies went through Hell though with two coming home to divorces and several other finding their lives destroyed. if there is any justice in this world Bush will go down in history as the worst president ever.

Red Nomad OZ said...

I remember being appalled that war seemed to be the only solution - and the gloating footage of the first raid (with civilian casualties) sickened me. It'll be interesting to read an honest account of what I believe to have been dark times ...

Thanx for entering my giveaway - why not feel even more like an Aussie with the Journey Jottings 2 for 1 deal - details in my 'Sunshine' post!

jdogwhitney said...

I was on the subject of vets on my blog, and Red Nomad OZ was kind enough to tell me about your book review. Your review affirmed what I have been feeling lately. I just hope that Americans remember to acknowledge the vets in their lives. I get that trauma can be alienating, so some compassion is in order. Books like this can help with that.