Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell by John Crawford
Read by Patrick Lawlor

All vets tell ‘sea stories’; at least that’s what we called them when I was in the Navy. I’m sure all the other services have a similar custom, but probably call it something different. They are not lies so much as retellings of events, which did happen, but as we remember them and not exactly as they may have actually occurred. After you’ve told them over and over again they become ‘the truth’ fixed in our memories as if they happened exactly that way. I’m not saying that the stories Crawford writes are not truthful, but we often makes changes to events after the fact. They either make us look better or we use the changes to make us able to accept things we did but may not like.

Crawford was a National Guardsman, who joined to help pay for college. Who would know that after 9/11 his nation would send him off to another country to fight? Weren’t Guardsman simply supposed to help out after natural disasters, and meet a couple weeks each year for training? Unfortunately, Crawford and his unit find themselves marching to Baghdad in the opening weeks of Operation: Iraqi Freedom.

These are not fun stories, although there is some humor to be found. It doesn’t even matter, in the end, how you feel about the war. Whether you favor the current policies, or think we should be removing all our troops tomorrow you’ll be touched by what Crawford has to say. He was there on the ground and saw first-hand how the faces of the Iraqi people turned from smiling to hateful. He took part in events that caused some of this change, but through no fault of his own. I know from personal experience that you never fully understand why you are ordered to do things, nor do you want to all the time. Still self-preservation and self-interest will move you to do as you’re told and think about it later.

As part of the assignment I’ve spoken of before, I picked up this audio book to sample something different. I like ‘war movies’ as much as the next guy, but generally don’t read stories of real war. Although I was a History major and read textbooks on various wars, I don’t make it a habit to read books written by folks who fought in them. Still I’m glad (if such a term fits here) to have listened to this 5-CD unabridged reading of Crawford’s book. I want to recommend it for those interested in such books. You can’t help but be moved by what happened to Crawford, his fellow Guardsmen and the Iraqi people whose lives crossed his. It will also reveal things the mainstream media might not tell and this current adminstration sure as hell doesn’t want you to think about.
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