The accidental soldier

The September after I graduated from high school, a friend and former flame from a Dominican family of modest means went into the army on the G.I. Bill so that he could go to college. At that time, he was, I should clarify, not yet a former flame.

Operation Desert Storm flared up the following year, and he was shipped off to the desert. In exchange for the letters and cookies and mix tapes I sent him, he wrote me some of the most frightening letters I’ve ever received. I watched CNN obsessively, and lay awake at night worrying, but he returned home (relatively) unscathed.

That conflict, of course, was child’s play compared to what’s going on in Iraq now.

Since Bush and friends declared war two and a half years ago, I’ve often thought about people like my friend — people who are playing lotto with their lives in exchange for access to higher learning.

So I’m interested to read The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier’s Account of the War in Iraq, which chronicles John Crawford’s experience of signing up for the Florida National Guard to have his college tuition paid and being suddenly and unceremoniously shipped out to the front lines to fight the War on Terror.

Crawford appeared on Fresh Air yesterday afternoon, and Jon Stewart interviewed him for The Daily Show last night. Evidently Stewart couldn’t put the book down. He called it “incredibly gripping” and “incredibly well-written,” and “urge[d] everyone to go out there and grab it.”


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