A Way To Cope With War
Area Native Writes Book Based On Experiences In Aftermath Of Iraq War Tour Of Duty
September 4, 2011
By Dave Emke (firstname.lastname@example.org) , The Post-Journal
When Jessica Goodell graduated high school, she chose not to go directly to college.
Instead, she chose the military route - a route that would lead her to Iraq, and to some of most gruesome sights imaginable.
In her recently released book, ''Shade It Black: Death and After In Iraq,'' Goodell details her role as part of the Mortuary Affairs unit in the war: the group of soldiers whose mission it is to process and identify the remains of dead American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.
The scent of death never escaped her while she was in her tour of duty with the Marine Corps, she said. And when she returned home, she found she still couldn't get away. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder related to her experiences in the war. Enrolled at Jamestown Community College upon her return, she didn't tell anyone about what she had done in Iraq and what she had seen.
''It was really difficult adjusting to civilian life,'' Goodell said. ''I was older - although not by much - than the average student and I had traveled around the world, even seeing war, when many students had not even left their hometowns.''
In the fall of 2006 she was enrolled in American Institutions, a sociology course, with professor John Hearn, who noticed something different about the student.
''When I picture her in that classroom, it's her posture I see most clearly,'' writes Hearn in the postscript to ''Shade It Black,'' which he co-wrote. ''While others had a tendency to slouch down into their plastic chairs or to lean forward to rest their arms on a shared table before them, Jess sat with a perfectly straight spine. She didn't whisper to classmates, play with her phone or appear disinterested. She finished the course with one of a few A's I assigned. I remember, too, that she did not say a single word throughout the 15-week semester.''
Goodell said that the American Institutions course caused her to think about her place in society, and she told Hearn about what she had experienced and how she was struggling to readjust.
''At the time, I was struggling with flashbacks, nightmares, substance abuse and social isolation,'' she said. ''John suggested that I tell him everything I could remember about Iraq, and that he would write it down into a coherent narrative so that I could begin processing my experiences.''
They two spent weeks talking, Goodell said. Though Goodell said it was difficult to answer Hearn's questions and put her memories of the experiences down onto paper, and that interviews often needed to be cut short because she would begin crying and shaking, doing so helped her to confront her fears and the horror of what she had been through.
But she couldn't do it right away. After about 90 pages were written, she said, Hearn gave her the documents and told her she could read them when she was ready. She placed them in a dresser drawer and left them there for close to two years, until she could face the memories.
''Finally, I pulled it out and called John and said I was ready,'' Goodell said. ''We read it line by line and decided to see if we could get it published.''
Goodell plans to attend graduate school at the University at Buffalo in the fall to continue her pursuit of a career in psychology, with the hope of one day working with veterans and their families. In the present, however, her book is doing the job of educating the world about how the hell of war can impact the psyche of a human being forever.