The term jarhead refers to a U.S. Marine’s high-and-tight haircut. But in a brutally honest memoir about his hitch in the Corps during the last Gulf War, Swofford explains that he was a jarhead long before boot camp (his father was a Vietnam vet and his bloodline had bled olive green for generations). He begins by taking us through the frat-house hazing of barracks life. But when he’s shipped off to Operation Desert Storm, M*A*S*H-style anarchy segues into gut-wrenching frontline reportage: the oil fires and petrol rain, the threat of chemical weapons, the sand seeping into each body crevice. Swofford wasn’t numbed by war. If anything, his senses — as both soldier and storyteller — came to life. He grieves not only for the fallen enemy but also his own loss of innocence as a teen who thirsted for combat, tasted it, and didn’t like it.