Jeff Key is certainly a complicated guy. A theater major in college, he moved to Los Angeles, where he lived an openly gay life until, at age 34, he decided to join Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. (At the time, 34 was over the age limit for joining the Marines, but they bent the rules for him.) He joined the Marine Corps first and foremost "to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." He was posted to Iraq near the beginning of the current war, and took to heart the task of making friends with as many of the locals as he could, doing his best to distribute food and supplies and so forth. Above all, he showed the Iraqi people the respect that is due every human being.
After President Bush proclaimed "Mission Accomplished," though, things began to turn sour. Hostility and resentment between the U.S. troops and the Iraqi civilians mounted on both sides, and the "mission" is clearly not only not yet accomplished, but not even heading in the right direction. After a non-combat injury sends him home, Key decides that his conscience demands that he come out as gay (on CNN, in front of five million people) and also come out against the Iraq War. (Indeed, I met Jeff Key at a protest in Crawford, Texas, in 2005.) The military kicked him out for violating "don't ask, don't tell," but, as I said two years ago, he is exactly the sort of person I want to have defending my country in time of crisis. Several of the Marines he served with echoed that view, making the simple point that knowing who's "got your back" is crucial; knowing who he sleeps with is not.
Semper Fi stands as a testament to the bravery and patriotism of one Marine in particular, and an indictment of the conduct of the Iraq War and especially of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Excellent, strongly recommended. Currently running on the Showtime cable network, through July 23.
Semper Fi: One Marine's Journey, dir. Vince DiPersio, 2007 USA, 76 min.
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