The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Gay & Lesbian Interest / Military History


The Last Deployment
How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq
Bronson Lemer

Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies
David Bergman, Joan Larkin and Raphael Kadushin, Series Editors

In the midst of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy debate, a gay former soldier offers a firsthand account of his experiences in the Iraq war

•Finalist, Minnesota Book Awards
•Finalist, Over the Rainbow 2011 selection, American Library Association
•Amazon Top Ten 10 Gay & Lesbian Books of 2011
•Bronson Lemer, one of Instinct magazine’s Leading Men 2011

In 2003, after serving five and a half years as a carpenter in a North Dakota National Guard engineer unit, Bronson Lemer was ready to leave the military behind. But six months short of completing his commitment to the army, Lemer was deployed on a yearlong tour of duty to Iraq. Leaving college life behind in the Midwest, he yearns for a lost love and quietly dreams of a future as an openly gay man outside the military. He discovers that his father’s lifelong example of silent strength has taught him much about being a man, and these lessons help him survive in a war zone and to conceal his sexuality, as he is required to do by the U.S. military.

The Last Deployment is a moving, provocative chronicle of one soldier’s struggle to reconcile military brotherhood with self-acceptance. Lemer captures the absurd nuances of a soldier’s daily life: growing a mustache to disguise his fear, wearing pantyhose to battle sand fleas, and exchanging barbs with Iraqis while driving through Baghdad. But most strikingly, he describes the poignant reality faced by gay servicemen and servicewomen, who must mask their identities while serving a country that disowns them. Often funny, sometimes anguished, The Last Deployment paints a deeply personal portrait of war in the twenty-first century.

“Lemer writes with clarity, temperance, and an eye for detail. . . . Without ever becoming polemical, the book shows graphically how ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ cruelly affects gay soldiers who play by the rules.”—David Bergman, editor of Gay American Autobiography: Writings from Whitman to Sedaris

“This is extremely touching material. Lemer describes the emotional turbulence of being gay in the military, tortured with the strong natural desire to connect with his fellow soldiers yet unable to reveal himself because of his sexuality. There is real pain in that kind of personal concealment, and it permeates this moving, substantive account.”—Bay Area Reporter

"A masterful balance of straightforward wartime reporting, anguised self-reflection, and a wealth of absurd asides."––Pittsburgh's Out

Bronson Lemer served in the North Dakota Army National Guard for six years, including deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. His writing has appeared in Blue Earth Review, The Rekjavik Grapevine, and Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers. He teaches English and humanities courses at Turtle Mountain Community College near Belcourt, North Dakota.

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Image of a soldier in Iraq in full combat uniform. Dog tags show author's name

June 2011
LC: 2010038911 HQ
320 pp.   6 x 9
1 b/w drawing

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-28214-1 Audiobook Audiobook
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"An important contribution to this national debate. . . . A book we should have on the president’s desk as soon as possible.”
—Tim Miller, author of Body Blows and 1001 Beds

"Lemer's is a wonderfully descriptive, wryly humorous, heart-crushing story, and I couldn't put it down...If you love a soldier, your country, or both, The Last Deployment is a book you'll want to tell everyone about."
––The Dallas Voice

"This book provides a poignant example of a gay man learning more about his place in the world. Lemer's fears and joys highlight the humanity associated with being gay in the military, along with complexities of the discriminatory and soon-to-be-ended policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'."
–High Plains Reader


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