The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell - An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq; by John Crawford, published by Riverhead Books, 2005.
"This is my first book signing and I thought I'd be sitting in a corner, sign a few books and 15 minutes later go home and take a nap," the former Florida National Guardsmen told the audience of about 150 at the local bookstore while the C-SPAN cameraman adjusted his tripod.
In the fall of 2002, Crawford was shy of 2 credits from graduating from Florida State University and on his honeymoon when he learned he was be shipped to Iraq. Once there, he wrote a story and a book publisher asked him if he could write a book. And thus, the book was born.
Crawford is a storyteller and almost overnight has become a spokesman for the soldiers who have and are currently serving in Iraq. His book offers grit and truth on what it's like to serve and live in conditions unimaginable to most Americans. His perspective is fresh, considering for the past few years we've been hearing the government's and journalists' perspectives. The stories are not in chronological order, however as he points out, the language becomes "stronger" as the conditions of deployment become more difficult.
Today marked his first book signing. He's been making the media rounds, including appearances on the Daily Show with John Stewart and National Public Radio. I heard his interview on NPR and read an interview with him in last Sunday's paper. Prior to the signing, I had not read the book. Many in the audience have already read it twice and even three times.
"The way you talk in war is different than what's appropriate for a family book store," he said as he explained how he liked to use and speak the dialogue in his book, but would modify it for today's G-rated audience.
When one of the audience participants thanked him for writing the book and serving the country, he joked that he never knows how to respond to people thanking him for serving. "It's not like I got an RSVP or was invited to go to Baghdad," he said.
I grant you an RSVP to read the book. It's especially a good read for those of you who wonder why soldiers return as different people. No matter what the rhetoric says, war hardens people. (But don't tell my father I'm reading it, he couldn't handle the profanity in "The Breakfast Club" and I can't imagine what he'd say about this.)
(Note: And if you catch the recording on C-SPAN, you'll get to see 10 seconds of my 15-minutes of fame ticked off).