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The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq [Paperback]

by John Crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 4, 2006 1594482012 978-1594482014 Reprint
In the tradition of Michael Herr's Dispatches, a National Guardsman's account of the war in Iraq.

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 Autumn 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.

Crawford and his unit spent months upon months patrolling the streets of Baghdad, occupying a hostile city. During the breaks between patrols, Crawford began recording what he and his fellow soldiers witnessed and experienced. Those stories became The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell—a haunting and powerful, compellingly honest book that imparts the on-the-ground reality of waging the war in Iraq, and marks as the introduction of a mighty literary voice forged in the most intense of circumstances.


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 clichés 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Potent…Crawford tells tales that bring human dimensions to his situation.” —The New York Times

“A National Guardsman who never expected to see battle writes a shattering account of the war that changed his life.” —People



"Tremendous...An incredibly gripping book, and incredibly well-written. It's a remarkable story...I commend [Crawford] not only for his service, but for the account of it, which is really a wonderful read."Jon Stewart, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

"Harrowing and exquisite."—Time

"Takes its place among the very best tales of men at warit rings with the raw emotional energies of truth and anger and sadness."The New Orleans Times-Picayune

“It's f***ing dynamite… Like Michael Herr in Dispatches, Crawford really has it down. He’s got it nailed.” —Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist at Rest



“Crawford is a wonderfully descriptive writer—and reading this book feels like climbing into a Humvee to patrol Baghdad in 130-degree heat.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune


Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594482012
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594482014
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
291 of 312 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work August 5, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I had the privilege of serving with Spc. Crawford in Iraq. His book tells it exactly like it was, with no holds barred. It covers everything from our supply inadequacies, to command mismanagements, to the reality of the war that the media never took the time to cover.

Crawford is a natural author, an expert at weaving an engaging story that grips the reader firmly and swiftly. In an age where the news media corporations are the only source most Westerner's have for news of the war, and the corrupt Arab news networks are the propaganda sources for the Middle East, Crawford's account of the Warrior battalion is a cutting, incisive, and TRUE representation of what REALLY went on over there. -
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251 of 272 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accidental soldier August 5, 2005
Format:Hardcover
John Crawford's story might be something out of Hollywood (indeed, with the new FX series, `Over There', now playing, Crawford's story seems almost as if it had been lifted for that drama). Crawford is like many others - he joined the National Guard for college money, not to go abroad and fight a war (whatever happened to the days when the National Guard stayed at home? but I digress...) He was nearing graduation, newly married, and suddenly thrust into the middle of a war that was controversial at the start, and increasingly unpopular at home as it dragged on.

Crawford spent three years in the 101st Airborne division, and then enlisted in the National Guard as he entered college, primarily for the tuition assistance. In Fall 2002, he was activated and had to go. Like many, his expectation of a short tour of duty was frustrated - the promise of `three months, six at most' turned into more than a year abroad.

Crawford's tales are riveting and engrossing. Like many men and women abroad in the conflict, he had varying access to email and internet facilities, and was encouraged by an embedded journalist to submit his tales (those of his own experience, and his writing on the experiences of others who were also around him at the time) to places around the country.

Some stories are now familiar to people in the States - problems with equipment, problems with personnel, problems with understanding their role vis-à-vis the locals. Crawford says that his unit was so underequipped that they even had to get vehicles from other units; at one point, they had a confiscated SUV from which they'd knocked the doors out, and mounted a machine gun on it. Not military issue at all. Their flak jackets were Vietnam-era technology, and their rifles were decades old.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story from someone who served August 6, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I was attached to the 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad, I remember when Johns unit came to relieve us. I can say, I bought this book today after watching The Daily Show. I have not been able to put the book down the entire day. I just now stopped to go online and see if I could find out more about John. But I am pretty sure I will finish this book this weekend.

The storytelling was remarkable, I felt as if I was back along that river watching those drunks yelling and screaming. I would 100% recommend this story to move directly to hollywood. It would translate totally to cinema.

Especially being there, I think it truely hit me deep down. Thank you for telling this tale, I can do nothing but recommend it to all readers.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Reading August 11, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book the day after it hit the shelves, see John is my youngest brother, and having heard stories about his time in Iraq, and knowing some of what he went through, but also knowing he kept morbid stuff out of his stories to me, I knew this would be a powerful story. John's life changed forever when he got deployed, and hopefully over time the anger and frustration he felt will subide, and he will be able to get past the bad times. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone, excellent story telling.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After serving three years in the 101st Army Airborne Division, John Crawford joined the Florida National Guard as a way to pay his college expenses at Florida State University. On his honeymoon, only a few classes short of graduation, Crawford got word that his National Guard unit would be sent to Iraq to support the US and British invasion (which took place on March 20, 2003). Crawford was in Iraq for more than a year.

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell is structured as a set of short stories that recount some of Crawford's experiences in Iraq. This is a successful format for recounting an experience that had little logic while Crawford was living it and probably less in retrospect.

Generals and journalist try to write accounts that provide some global view of events. Crawford's account is that of an infantryman on the ground, in the dust, dirt and fear. The book opens with a story about the invasion. Crawford's unit was trapped with a few other units in a dust storm. As night falls, with zero visibility and no anti-tank weapons, they are told that an Iraqi tank unit is headed their way. The dust is everywhere, clogging their weapons, which in any case would do little damage to the Soviet era tanks used by the Iraqi army. Crawford never finds out whether the tanks pass by his unit or just never show up in the area.

Crawford's unit spends the rest of their time in Iraq attempting to provide security in Baghdad. Several of his stories involve the time his unit spent policing two Iraqi gas stations. The Iraq that Crawford describes is a shattered third world country. The Baghdad he inhabited was a city of hovels and crumbling apartments. A dangerous city of dust and filth. The overall color is the brown of desert sand, a city almost devoid of trees.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars revealing....
I appreciate the depth and honesty in the book. My heart goes out to every soldier and the chaos that follows their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives.
Published 1 month ago by tarkington6
5.0 out of 5 stars You have to read this book
I have gone through about 10 copies of this book, I do enjoy reading it and I always give it out to young Soldiers, that is why I have picked up so many of them
Published 6 months ago by rex arbogast
1.0 out of 5 stars A caricature of a war memoir. Avoid it.
Where do I start with this piece of garbage? I usually enjoy reading war memoirs, and have read a number of them. Read more
Published 6 months ago by The Litigator
5.0 out of 5 stars Great personal story.
This is a personal account of a mans time in hell. Read this book and know why so many of our service people come home in a terrible mental state.
Bless them all.
Published 10 months ago by Wilber Rea
5.0 out of 5 stars very good book
about living military life in iraq, not about house to house combat everyday. insight to how s****y being deployed in this third world country is.
Published 11 months ago by Bill T. Compton
4.0 out of 5 stars raw, un-filtered emotions
John Crawford was an American Soldier who joined the U.S National Guard in order to pay for his college tuition, little did he know the cost he would end up paying for what he... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Cullen Lobe
1.0 out of 5 stars Filthy language! !!
This book was on my kids list of books to read in her advanced placement english class. I was appaulled just flipping through the pages to see filthy language on every other page... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Lisa K.
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
must read..very enjoyable book
i love the accounts of this mans journey through Iraq..the actual accounts were amazing.it made me feel like I was there
Published 14 months ago by scott forest
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Iraq War books I've read
Great writing (mostly). The story was probably as ordinary as one could find from soldiers who served in Iraq, which plus the good writing made it worth the purchase. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Q1A
4.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile
This was a very well-written collection of stories describing life in Iraq as a soldier. The author does a great job of portraying the feeling of being in Iraq and just wanting to... Read more
Published on January 26, 2012 by Michael Willis
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