A husband, soldier, and public servant tells his own story.
Belied by its somewhat self-aggrandizing title, Vernon’s debut nonfiction is actually an unassuming, heartfelt memoir concentrating on his difficult and abuse-ridden formative years, his experiences in the Army, rising to the rank of colonel before his retirement, and his 2011 bid for the U.S. Senate. His account opens with his hardscrabble childhood years and gains momentum as he enlists in the Army in 1977. His military career had quite a few dramatic highlights, including service in Bosnia guarding the War Crimes Tribunal and a stint in Saudi Arabia, where he served in close proximity to his wife, who worked in the nearby diplomatic compound. In Saudi Arabia, he had a close call, narrowly avoiding death or injury during a bombing of Army headquarters in Riyadh in November 1995. “Sunlight completely illuminated the cafeteria, where only minutes earlier, both my wife and I would have been eating our lunch,” he writes. “The entire east wall had been blown out.” With appealing humility, the climactic chapters detail his run for the U.S. Senate: “the road to politics is akin to the road to a music career,” he says. “The problem with what I’ve just said is that I can’t sing a lick, so politics seems much more do-able!” He faced growing disillusionment with his fellow Republicans, many of whom struck him as shallow and greedy (although he was impressed by GOP candidate Mitt Romney). All these stories are illuminated by Vernon’s love for his wife and family. More controversial to some readers will be the short essays collected at the back of the book on subjects like Planned Parenthood—“its true mission is to generate big bucks”—gun control, the many failings of “progressives” like President Barack Obama, and the “reckless and tyrannical style of government” into which the country has fallen. These essays risk turning off readers won over by the likable narrator in the book’s earlier sections.
A deeply personal, at times moving story of one man’s American experience.