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A gay Iraq war vet tells his story

June 25, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

"Semper Fi: One Marine's Journey," set for 8:30 tonight on Showtime, is the story of one man's travels from Alabama to Los Angeles to Iraq and back again and his turmoil in trying to reconcile his desire to be a Marine with the fact he's gay.

Actually, it's two stories: Veteran filmmaker Vince DiPersio's documentary about Jeff Key is punctuated with scenes from Key's one-man show.

The documentary leans heavily on interviews with friends from Key's two seemingly contradictory worlds: his Los Angeles friends and his former Marine Corps buddies.

As he describes it, his upbringing in Alabama was strictly Mayberry. His coming-out to his parents was difficult but not traumatic. After graduating with a degree in theater, he fled to Los Angeles and show business.

Fast-forward to 2000, when Key decided to seek a waiver from the Marine Corps to enlist at age 34. He followed "don't ask, don't tell," although it appears his buddies knew of his sexuality.

In Iraq, he shot his own videos, and the images of Key, his fellow Marines and Iraqis are the high point of "Semper Fi."

But there are problems. At 76 minutes, it could use a trim. No explanation is offered of what Key did for a living before enlisting. Or of why his father didn't accompany his mother to his boot camp graduation.

Key suffered a hernia in Iraq and was medically evacuated. Since returning to the U.S., he has left the Marine Corps and joined the antiwar movement.

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