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Soldier of the Year: The Story of a Gay American Patriot Hardcover – October, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Library Journal

Sixth Army Soldier of the Year for 1992, Zuniga was discharged from the U.S. Army after coming out as a gay man at the 1993 March on Washington for gay and lesbian rights. A journalist before and during his four years of service, Zuniga would seem uniquely qualified to tell the tale of one gay man's service to his country. He offers a melange of his own life story, from his youth as an army brat through his development into a gay rights activist after his discharge; a history of the mainstream politics behind the 1993 battle to lift the ban on gays in the military; and tales of infighting in the lesbian and gay rights movement in the 1990s. Unfortunately, this award-winning journalist's prose is consistently overwitten and often chronologically muddled. Still, Zuniga's centrality to this debate warrants inclusion of his title in larger public libraries.
Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; First Edition edition (October 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671888145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671888145
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,780,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Soldier of the Year," by Jose Zuniga, is the memoir of a United States Army soldier who was discharged after publicly announcing he was gay. Zuniga was a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf War who had attained the rank of sergeant. The title alludes to a significant military honor bestowed upon him: being named Sixth U.S. Army Soldier of the Year in 1993. This memoir covers his life from his birth in 1969 to the end of his military career in 1993.

Zuniga's story is consistently interesting and compelling. But I found the writing style often irritating and distracting. The whole thing has a self-absorbed, adolescent flavor to it (understandable, perhaps, when one considers that the author was only 25 years old when the book was published). The prose is at times sickeningly flowery, at times annoyingly bombastic. He seems to be trying too hard to sound either learned or clever (such as when he calls a group of military personnel a "coven of courtesans"). Sometimes he just sounds bitter and childish (as when he mocks Senator Strom Thurmond's hair). The stylistic flaws of the book are particularly regrettable because they detract from the many important issues he raises.

Zuniga discusses his combat zone service as both a military journalist and a medic. He also covers his stateside tours of duty. He paints an often searing portrait of a gay soldier's closeted life. One of the most fascinating sections of the book involves the question as to whether or not he improperly wore an Army award ribbon on his uniform during a public appearance; this material, including a fascinating appendix to the main text, gives readers a glimpse into the practical inner workings of the Army.
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