TV comedy writer White recalls the grueling yet confidence-building three-month Marine Corps boot camp training he endured as a still-closeted teenager in 1979.
Having moved numerous times throughout his childhood, at the age of 18, the author lived with his mother and brothers in Dallas. On a whim and with no future goals, White agreed to accompany his friend, a recent Air Force Academy cadet, and enlist in the Marine Corps. Physically unfit, admittedly effeminate, and considerably underweight, he was suddenly forced to share tight living quarters with dozens of straight young men and endure arduous physical endurance challenges, not to mention brutally demanding drill instructors. White lived in fear that he would be outed as gay, which could have led to a dishonorable discharge or, worse, a beating. Yet years before the passage of “don't ask, don't tell,” the boot camp proved to be a tremendously equalizing experience. As White eventually began to excel in areas he never anticipated, he also realized that each recruit, no matter the level of athletic prowess or supposed masculinity, was dealing with anxieties and shortcomings in a united quest to complete the course. Ultimately, the author’s fear gradually took a back seat to his more urgent desire to not only achieve a meaningful goal, but also gain acceptance. “I gained confidence from membership in a group I never thought I could belong to, a group I never thought would accept me,” he writes. “I adopted the same attitude they did; I did everything anyone did. I was a man with a job, a man who happened to be gay. Being a Marine is hard work and takes a lot of focus, practice, and dedication. I learned that I had to respect myself if I wanted others to respect me.” The author demonstrates that respect and delivers a heartening coming-of-age story.
A readable, inspiring memoir that displays a balanced, surprisingly reverent view of the Marine Corps and military service.