Title: Big Diehl
Author: George Seaton
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M, military
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Big Diehl understood his nature, early-on. Raised as a cowkid on a ranch in northeastern Colorado, Diehl yearned for something more, something encompassing the truth of himself. He became a soldier. Served honorably in Iraq. Found precious love along the way. Yearned to return to Wyoming where his future awaited, where an unfinished reckoning beckoned.
Before he enlisted, Big Diehl lived in Laramie most of his life and had never really been anywhere except Colorado and Wyoming. His first name was actually Big – I guess his parents didn’t care enough to give him a real name. We met Big in high school when he decided that he was going to graduate because joining the military was his ticket to get out of Dodge. His dream was to move far away from the tin house in Laramie, being dirt poor, and leave his no-good father behind. He also wanted to do something noble with his life which he felt was worthless. Thinking about the recent past and Desert Storm, as well as replaying in his mind the horror that was Vietnam, reinforced his determination to serve his country and gave him a seriousness of purpose.
Big’s first sexual experience was with his best friend Joe whom he told about his dream to make something of his life. He thought that Joe shared his dream but upon graduation, when it came time to leave town, Joe didn’t even stick around to say goodbye. So Big left Laramie in his beat-up Ford truck with $10 in his wallet to wait out his 2 weeks before he was called up. His first stop was at a bar in a small town not too far away since he didn’t have money for gas. He met two wonderful lesbians who owned the bar, Christine and Maddie, who would took pity on him, fed and gave him a place to stay on their farm. Big found out that the ladies were in the habit of picking up waifs as they called people like him, and that they had rescued many others in similar circumstances. The first person he met on the farm was another waif, Tony, recently dishonourably discharged from the military because he was gay. Tony had been living there for about a year and they became friends and ultimately lovers before Big left for Fort Polk, Louisiana.
This story really moved me as Big grew up from a scared but determined kid of 18 to a man of 24 who lived through some of the most terrifying moments in his life with one objective – to serve his country. In the book I relived September 11 when the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and other US monuments were destroyed by terrorists. What was amazing was that 8 years have gone by since September 11, 2001, and the hell that was and still is the Iraq war felt so real I could taste it in Big Diehl.
The author George Seaton created characters that were three dimensional, the story was well plotted, and the 6 years Big was in the army just seemed to fly by. This story was one of the saddest but most compelling in the anthology as it was present day, but it was also very uplifting. I really liked the prose and dialogue in Big Diehl which were crisp and fresh and did a great job of illustrating life in the Forces. I was sorry when the story ended because I felt that there was so much more that Big could have accomplished and you will fall in love with him as I did.
Because Big was gay, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was very much a part of his story and the very few liaisons that he had while he served were conducted off the base in secret. Although he railed against them personally, he knew there was nothing he could do because regulations were the military and sometimes you just have to play the hand you’re dealt. Big Diehl is part of the Esprit de Corps anthology. Definitely recommended!