Eric Milder has just come from his third mission to Afghanistan and has met his long-term friend Steve Millan, who became a lawyer in the United States of America. The two friends chat for a few seconds then stop to discuss John Crawford’s “The last true story I’ll ever tell”, which Millan had finished reading recently (Crawford). He wants to understand about warzone from a trusted friend regarding how soldiers do not relate with our common people and if they go to war voluntarily, other than sacrificing for the country. Erick had read the book during the first few weeks of joining the military.
Erick: Millan, most people in this country think that soldiers are the worst people in the world. I mean, why would someone or you perceive me as that?
Millan: Why would you think that about me?
Erick: Not you. I used you as an example. But my question is, why would someone think that soldiers are the worst people in the world?
Millan: Friend, I have known you for years. Whether a soldier or not, you are a good man.
Erick: So, you agree with the sentiment that soldiers in general are bad people?
Millan: No, no, no, friend. What I mean is that it is unfair to judge people based on what they do. I know many soldiers some of whom are genuinely fighting for the ideals of their country. I believe that our soldiers in this country are true to the course and they do their work diligently.
Erick: Yeah. That’s true.
Millan: I also think that soldiers follow strict commands from their seniors, hence do not act on their own.
Erick: Most people do not understand that we work in the best interest of the country and to protect our people. I… (Millan interrupts).
Millan: Actually, we appreciate the efforts of the soldiers. I believe that no American citizen can look down upon someone who has carried the banner of the country for a good course. I recently read about John Crawford’s “The last true story I’ll ever tell” and I liked some of the insights he was giving in the narration. It kind of makes one want to be a soldier, you know?
Erick: Being a soldier is challenging, and I can tell you that from my personal experience. We find it difficult to relate to everybody. The cultures we meet outside the camp are completely different from what we have as soldiers.
Millan: But you can adjust, right?
Erick: It’s not an easy man. If you read the book and completed it, you might have met Crawford saying how difficult it is to integrate soldiers into society. For instance, I find it uneasy to relate to my society members.
Millan: I appreciate that we are here talking like we used to before you joined the army.
Erick: It’s been a journey buddy. I am better now compared to when I was just coming from the war. Can you imagine what Crawford might have gone through? You are on honeymoon and then you are called to go to a war field? My case is different, though…you are sacrificing your everything to protect your country.
Millan: He emotionally recounted losing his wife and failing to get a job for a long period.
Erick: That’s not enough bro. He explicitly says that nothing returns to normalcy after a soldier comes from war. And you know you must survive. Like literally, Crawford had to sleep in a friend’s house to keep the day going. Yet, you have fought for your country.
Millan: I think Crawford gives concise information regarding what our soldiers pass through during the war, which is why he never wishes the devastation to repeat.
Erick: My buddy, you should never wish to experience the sounds of war.
Millan: But soldiers know what awaits them on the battlefield, don’t they?
Erick: We do not know. Sometimes you are sent on a mission, and you are only told the target once you are close. That approach creates instinct making a soldier fight to protect themselves and their fellow. You can imagine that emotional torture, then the society you fight to protect looks down upon you.
Millan: I think society may judge soldiers for some of the actions they do, such as killing women and children.
Erick: (A little uneasy) what would you do in a situation where a woman or child comes to you carrying a grenade or rocket launcher? They want to kill you and your troupe, then take your body to the streets and insult your country.
Millan: (Nodding his head). I agree with you. I thought these are just fictitious and to be honest, at some point, I also thought that these are unacceptable.
Erick: We are humans, and our code is to protect the lives of innocent people. A true soldier does not kill anyone who is not a threat to their lives and the lives of others. (There is some tension between the two. Erick tries to be calm but feels the need to speak more. On the other hand, Millan seems to blame himself for speaking something that may have hurt his friend).
Millan: I… (Erick interrupts)
Erick: You don’t have to be sorry bro. Crawford does not describe the melodramatic actions of soldiers. These are real occurrences we face at war. He eloquently portrays the actual scenarios on the battlefield, for instance, working without visibility due to sandstorms or night darkness. You don’t want the enemy to spot you, yet you must also protect yourself from the bombs.
Millan: Sure. His description of the country indicates the surreal illogical of the President Bush regime’s claim that the nation was a threat to the U.S.A. He presents these facts in a gripping fashion such that the reader would want to relate to his experience in Iraq. He succinctly reveals that the soldiers are tied and bored being in Iraq.
Erick: Crawford brilliantly expresses his sentiments regarding missions that soldiers must attend sometimes. For instance, he ravenous reveals the dissatisfaction that National Guards experience for being treated as second-class soldiers.
Millan: Of course, that was not fair to the guards. Crawford reveals that the mission was perilous since the soldiers could not easily identify the militants. The fact that the enemy could use human shields also reveals the complex nature of their work, which we must appreciate.
Erick: (Giggling for a few seconds). That’s not enough my friend; you should see the grudge directed toward the soldiers and the neglect we receive from our friends.
Millan: I noticed that there are stories whose ends were unknown.
Erick: You should expect that in the life of a soldier. You can be called for a mission at any time, and this can mean you never meet the person with whom you started a friendship or any other type of relationship. Such unforeseen events may also result in halted projects. Look at Crawford, for example, the sacrifice he makes for his country leads to him losing his wife. He never planned that; you know?
Millan: Sure thing. I can… (interrupted by a passerby).
Erick: Well. Crawford also reveals the pastoral nature of a soldier’s life, showing the destructive nature of war, poverty, crime, and disease. He accentuates the insignificant role of the U.S military in Iraq. For instance, he reveals that if the public is exposed to some real facts, they can re-examine why the soldiers were sent to Iraq.
Millan: How does this reveal the culture of the United States?
Erick: Well, there is a lot that we can’t say in the hearing of the public. But I think I agree with Crawford that our country has stuck with creating fear in the public through its notable media power. This contradicts our quest for democracy.
Millan: I think that relates closely with what happened recently in Afghanistan, right?
Erick: It’s much the same. Crawford notes that the U.S. faced a historic defeat in Iraq, which fast forward, we see in Afghanistan. Being part of those who had been in Afghanistan, I didn’t like how the mission ended, leave alone how long it lasted.
Millan: That’s sad to hear from a soldier.
Erick: It’s sad but true. We have created strong soldiers among the Islamic extremists because now they think that the entire globe wants to fight them.
Millan: I relate that with Crawford’s depiction that the U.S defeat by the Middle Eastern countries will serve to further rebuild the Islamic states for future more resilient positions.
Erick: (Concluding the discussion). All in all, Crawford gives the true experience of what happens on the battlefield. It is completely different from what others perceive of the soldiers and their missions. We do not relate with our societies at first, which is why it is also important for people to be patient with soldiers. Moreover, we do not go to war voluntarily, but we sacrifice for our country.
Crawford, John. The last true story I’ll ever tell: An accidental soldier’s account of the war in Iraq. Penguin, 2006.