Jose Zuniga Soldier of the Year

ISBN 13: 9780671888152

Soldier of the Year

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9780671888152: Soldier of the Year

As a boy growing up in Indiana and Texas, Joe Zuniga originally wanted to be a priest - the Zunigas were devout Catholics. But his family had a strong military tradition, and Joe's Mexican-American father considered military service to be the one fittingly masculine profession for his only son. Joe was offered a congressional appointment to West Point, but declined it to stay near home when his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Arriving at boot camp in Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1989, Joe began a military career that took off at an astounding pace. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm he excelled as both a journalist and a combat medic, earning decorations in both capacities, and rose rapidly to the rank of sergeant. After the war, Joe married to avoid questions about his personal life, and landed a plum assignment as editor of the newspaper at the Presidio of San Francisco, where he won both Journalist of the Year and Soldier of the Year. Joe appeared to be on a fast track to the Pentagon, his future in the military assured. Then he tired of living a lie. Picking up where Randy Shilts' Conduct Unbecoming leaves off, Soldier of the Year is an intensely candid account of the homophobia and hypocrisy that pervade the American military - and much of American society. While in the Army, Joe was horrified to discover the gestapo-like treatment of gays in the military, but was heartened by President Clinton's early pledges to open the ranks of the armed forces to all men and women, gay or straight. Joe felt that by very publicly coming out of the closet he could help make a difference. He could not have imagined the byzantine punishments the Army had in store for him - norClinton's political retreat that resulted in the infamous "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy. The Soldier of the Year was discharged. Honest and unflinching, Soldier of the Year is a powerful report from the front lines of a heated controversy that shows no signs of abatin

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The 1992 recipient of the Soldier of the Year award, who saw a brilliant Army career crumble when he decided to come out of the closet, breathlessly recaptures the events surrounding his sensational gesture. Zuniga comes from a family with deep roots in the US military; he clearly has great respect for the Army as an institution, with the exception of its ruling on homosexuals. His home life of military-style discipline is described affectionately and fairly, as is his successful career as an Army journalist. Boot camp at Fort Hood is seen as a period of exultant self-discovery. He did not find it difficult to maintain a clandestine gay lifestyle inside the Army, he says--in fact, most of his friends there were gay. We get interesting behind-the-lines scenes of the Gulf War, in which he served as a medic; he seems to stress his bonding relations with straight men as if to prove that sexual orientation did not interfere with duty. A turning point suddenly arrived when the predicament of a lesbian supply technician (sexually harassed and then dishonorably discharged at the harasser's instigation) aroused Zuniga's guilt at not announcing his own homosexuality. Transferred to San Francisco's Presidio barracks, he felt his double life ready to overtake him. He made his announcement on April 24, 1993, just four months after President Clinton's reiterated promise to lift the ban on gays in the armed services. Zuniga is a bit too taken with his own heroism here: ``I risked it not to become a Nelson Mandela or Andrei Sakharovtype figure in gay history,'' he says unironically, ``but because Silence truly does equal Death.'' That he did not, unlike those men, spend years in confinement for his actions does not, alas, seem to have occurred to him. Honest and emotionally charged, but marred by childish and clich‚d political rhetoric. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

A staunch Republican and patriot who loved the Army, Sergeant Zuniga was a military journalist who served in the Gulf War and was honored as the Sixth Army's 1993 Soldier of the Year. A gay man whose wife was a lesbian, he had been hiding his sexual orientation behind the "happily married" facade. But living a duplicitous life was increasingly hard on him, and his crisis of conscience was dramatically resolved when he delivered a coming-out speech during the gay/lesbian demonstrations in April 1993 in Washington, D.C., before an audience of nearly a million. The Army reacted swiftly, stripping him of his rank and threatening him with a court-martial for a minor uniform infraction. Since his discharge-which was honorable-Zuniga has been busy speaking out for gay rights and expressing his disgust over President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" compromise, which Zuniga calls a "sellout to homophobes and bigots." His book includes a vivid picture of San Francisco's Castro Street culture (Zuniga was stationed at the Presidio in that city) and a poignant account of his relationship with his macho father and tenderhearted mother. This well-told personal story avoids shrillness and self-righteousness, and wins admiration for Zuniga's courage.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Zuniga, Jose
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Jose Zuniga
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