In this debut personal memoir, Tinoco details his hard-fought ascendancy out of poverty to a life of military service.
After the author was born in the United States in 1974, his single Mexican mother went back to Mexico while he lived with his grandparents in Weslaco, Texas, so that he could get a superior education. The family lived in straitened financial circumstances, so Tinoco was put to work picking crops by the age of 7, routinely skirting child-labor laws. Later, after a visit with a slick military recruiter, Tinoco enthusiastically decided to enlist in the Marines, but his grandparents quickly disabused him of that notion. He eventually graduated in the top 10 percent of his class, but he found himself crushed by two menial jobs. After his beloved grandmother died, he joined the Army and was sent to Fort Knox in Kentucky for basic training. He became a logistics specialist, assigned to work at the motor pool of a mechanized infantry unit, and he was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998. There, he suffered greatly due to the horrors he witnessed and the peril he faced. Afterward, his first marriage fell apart, and while stationed in Germany, he turned to alcohol, eventually hitting rock bottom after a brawl at a nightclub, which landed him in hot water with his superiors. The author rebounded, though, to honorably serve the remainder of his time in the military; he also remarried and became a border patrol agent. It’s impossible not to be inspired by the author’s remembrance, which is both triumphant and frankly self-critical as he tells of striving to answer his calling to civic duty. During an era of contentious debate about immigration, especially regarding immigrants from Mexico, Tinoco provides a fascinatingly complex perspective as a first-generation American citizen. Readers may also give his observations additional weight due to his later experience (and current position) as a border patrol agent. The prose is sometimes unpolished—for example, as grueling as his work was as a child, he was not “literally breaking my back”—but it still remains clear and poignant throughout.
A candid recollection of a challenging but rewarding life.