I have a tendency to binge on one topic, and I some how got off on the lives of men in the military under DADT. Most likely it was a suggestion from Amazon based upon the topics I enjoy reading.
While these two books are an enjoyable read, they come at the topic of how DADT affected their lives from two totally different directions. The main focus of the books aren't from the same vantage point either, something that I found interesting and really rounded out the experience of serving under this stupid policy.
PRIDE:The Story Of The First Openly Gay Navy Seal
"I hung up the payphone with my head hanging towards the ground. "Fuck. Fuck, Fuck! How could they possibly have found out that I am gay? I am always so careful. I am always really careful. Somebody must have informed on me...but who? Who do I know that would do such a thing? Take a breath, Brett, and just breathe. Just. Breathe. Dammit." I thought to myself while exhaling deeply. I looked over to the gate and saw that my flight had already started boarding."
This is how his book begins and it takes the majority of the book to cycle back around to this point in time. What fills the rest of his book is his journey to become a Seal. And while I knew it was an arduous ordeal where most of the men who start the training wash out, I literally had no idea just how grueling the training actually is. He is open and candid about his flaws and his weaknesses.
When his parents found out he was gay, they had his older brother drive him to a cheap hotel, gave him $300 and told him never return. He was a senior in High School, yup a good "christian" woman and his Air Force father thought it was acceptable to toss out their son. He finished school and at some point between his being tossed out and joining the Navy his parents let him move back home.
The primary focus of this book is Brett's fight to excel in the Navy and become the end all and be all to him, a Seal. His relationship with the man which caused him to be released from the Navy is only touched on. He is open about being gay and different hookups but this portion of who he is really takes a back seat to Brett Jones, Seal. He has an epilogue letting you know how his life after the Seals has been.
This book was a page turner for me. I was engrossed from the the first paragraph to the last word. I will admit that I wish he would have included more about the relationship with the fella he was living with while a Seal, but then again, maybe he didnt want to invade his privacy.
Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement
You might remember this video from the Republican Debate September 22, 2011, where a serving soldier on active duty in Iraq was booed by the audience.
1 A Leap of Faith
"We boarded the plane. I sat down and closed by eyes. I looked down at my watch, December 4, 2010, 22:16. Could this be happening again? My mind was like a film projector, flickering backa nd forthe between thought - my first deployment to Iraq twenty years ago for Desert Storm, my boyfriend Josh, my parents, my brother, my pets- then back to Josh. We had been dating only a few months, but I knew this ws the person I wanted to spend my life with. We'd had to say goodbye underneath an escalator, where no one could see us. Knowing I was leaving for war, knowing I might not ever see him again, I held him tighter than I'd ever held anyone. All around us husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, hugged and kissed each other in plain sight, without sexrecy, without shame. Josh and I wiped our tear dry and left our hideout in opposite directions so people didn't notice. This is the real fact of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Stephan's book while talking a great deal about his life in the Army focuses more upon how restrictive his life was while serving under DADT. How he would race around to remove photos of him and his boyfriend. How he made sure never to be overheard on the phone while talking with Josh. The whole game of changing Josh's gender by using feminine pronouns when talking about his love life. How he hated having to field questions about why he isnt married, or has pictures of his "girlfriend", until he finally had a female friend pose for pictures with him to hush up the whispers.
The last part of the book was talking about his lawsuit and the advocacy work him and his husband Josh have been a part of.
There were times I felt this book lagged a bit, but was a solid read. When the book was finished, you know who Stephan Synder-Hill is, and he is a very likeable chap. What I found the most interesting how life under DADT was miles worse than before it took effect. After DADT it became a witch hunt for gays and lesbians in the military, and people were prying constantly for personal information, checking for facts that didn't match up with previous telling of the same story. It was hard for Stephan to come out, and he wasn't planning on showing his face on camera, even after DADT was repealed. How his company reacted to his coming out was a very strong portion of the story, and at times surprising to me as a reader.