Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rich Moniac Interviews Jess

Rich Moniac interviewed Jess on 9/26. Rich has a program on KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. Jess has been interviewed quite a few times since the book's publication; this interview is among the best.


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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jamestown Post Journal Interviews Jess

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 (demke@post-journal.com) , 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.