With writerly panache and a refreshingly direct tone, the 40-year-old Jones relates the story of his life. He grew up as a middle child plagued by ADHD under the watchful eye of an Air Force officer father and a mother who became a born-again Christian and an anti-sugar health-food fanatic. He chronicles the family’s many relocations due to his father’s military service—first to Korea, where he explored subterranean tunnels with his brother Marc; and then to Arizona; Cairo; and finally Austin, Texas, where his parents enrolled him in a strictly regimented “boy’s ranch.” The school, however, only ended up distancing him from his parents further, as he inched closer to acknowledging and consummating his homosexual feelings. Desperate to “prove to the world that this ‘faggot’ would accomplish what tens of thousands of straight men had failed to do,” Jones enlisted in the Navy, and his bold journey to become a SEAL began in boot camp during an icy northern Illinois winter. Along the way, he furtively socialized in a clandestine gay club in Mississippi and made two attempts at surmounting a particularly grueling Hell Week during SEAL training in Southern California. He depicts his military service in spirited chapters that offer readers a vicarious view of troop platoon life. He engagingly crafts his most vivid memories into nostalgic anecdotes; some are harrowing, such as a near-death experience he had as a child, and some are unjust and humiliating, such as his military discharge in 2003 for reported homosexual behavior. Jones is a talented writer who quickly gets his story across without unnecessary exposition. He brings a sharp personal perspective to the final chapter: a letter to his young son about how to live life fearlessly and without regret. Readers interested in the experience of being gay in the military, and its former “don’t ask, don’t tell” conundrum, will find Jones’ memoir a rewarding experience.
An unflinchingly honest autobiography written with brevity, charm, passion and immense patriotism.