Friday, September 23, 2011

The Value of Education

Fredonia alumni releases memoir

Before attending Fredonia State Jessica Goodell, a 2010 graduate, served a tour in Iraq as part of the Marine Mortuary Affairs Unit. After returning to the States and civilian lifestyle Goodell found inspiration from professors Hearn (Jamestown Community College) and Suthankaran (Fredonia State) which prompted publication of her personal account  in Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq.
 "I saw that there was in fact meaning and value to life after the military." After getting out of the military in 2005 Goodell started traveling.  She had been in nine places before reaching Western New York including California, St. Louis, Washington and Tucson.
"I think I was searching for a place where I felt like I belonged," Goodell said of her time spent traveling. Goodell was actually making plans to go back to California when she realized she would not find what she was looking for and should enroll in school.  After enrolling at Fredonia, Jessica stayed in Chautauqua County. She majored in psychology and minored in philosophy.
Jessica says she was challenged and pushed beyond what she thought were her limits during her time at Fredonia. Dr. Suthakaran, professor of psychology, was the one to push her the most.
"Every class I had with him just blew me away," Goodell said. "I feel that he was the professor that awakened me from the flow of life."
Hearn and Suthakaran taught Jessica how she could integrate her experiences into who she is and begin to move forward, taking with her what she has learned rather than being held back by it.
Hearn, co-author of "Shade it Black," was also Goodell's teacher at Jamestown Community College. Publishing a book was not Goodell's goal when she and Hearn first started. She told Hearn that she was a veteran who had been to Iraq and was struggling making the transition to civilian life from military lifestyle.
When Hearn told Jessica to write down her experiences, she did not know where to start.
"The only memories I had of Iraq were those of flashbacks and nightmares. I met with John once a week and he would interview me. He had specific questions prepared," Goodell said.  
The road to writing the book was not easy for Goodell, especially because it was intended to be a published book. Originally collected as a journal these memoirs contained stories from Iraq so she could begin to process what happened.
"As you can imagine, it was very painful reliving my experiences. I was not healing yet and the only way I knew how was to recall what happened and relive the emotion and pain," Jessica said.  Hearn told Goodell that her story was one that others could learn from because many people did not know about the duties she had performed in Iraq. After finishing the story, Hearn arranged it for her and gave her a hard copy.
The road to publishing companies was a long one. Goodell was not quite ready to share her story with the world yet.
"I took the hard copy and put it in my dresser drawer. It stayed there for a couple of years; I didn't even want to look at it. I was not ready, it was too painful." Goodell said.  After some time had passed, Jessica took the book out of her drawer and told Hearn she was ready. Together they submitted the book to a publishing company.
"There was no part of this book that did not come with tears. As I said earlier, I struggled with the idea that there was value to life after the military," Goodell said. She is very thankful for her time here at Fredonia and the professors who aided in her figuring out things about herself and her achievements.
"There were many professors at SUNY Fredonia who made me think and reflect about life.  To not just live it but to be actively aware and engaged in it," Goodell said.
Goodell will return to the Fredonia campus during the 2011 Homecoming Weekend for a book signing. The signing will take place in the University Bookstore at 1 p.m. Saturday, October 22.

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