Monday, October 1, 2012

A Student Essay

    Jessica gave the convocation address at Miami University this past August. Since then students have been thinking and talking and writing about her story. I've read several of their essays. One that I'm particularly impressed by follows. It is written by John Evans.

Two Marines
Shade It Black is a story of two versions of marines. One is the brothers in arms we all want them to be. These Marines are selfless and brave. These are the Marines that would run across camp during an attack to make sure their comrade is safe. These are the Marines who would follow another marine into a lake in full gear to save him from drowning or die trying. These are the marines who would go back into the burning Humvee to get their man out when the army soldiers are told to give up and get out. These are the marines that make us proud to be Americans, the marines that we have grown to know as the pinnacle of Americanism and patriotism and honor. These marines live up to the motto Semper Fi- Always loyal- to their very last breath. They go to a world of hatred and death and find a way to support one another through it. Their spirit and sense of humanity not only survives but somehow grows stronger thanks to the impossibly strong love they feel for their fellow marines. Being a marine, feeling that unshakable brotherhood was a privilege: The greatest honor one could achieve in this life-serving their brothers and serving this great nation. My uncle was a marine and I idolized him for it. He was never ashamed of what happened. Of his past, his present and his future, he always had an unwavering certainty that was the life he wanted to lead.

However, the rest of the book is taken up by the other type of Marine. There is no romanticism here. These marines are brutal. They bully some of their own so badly they are driven to suicide, and then call the dead marines cowards. They have sex with anything that gives them the opportunity and often many that don't. Rape was such a concern that women would die from dehydration so they didn't have to go to the bathroom in the dark. Having to choose between staying hydrated and not getting raped is a decision no one should ever have to make. If this were a problem in the civilian world, it would be called an epidemic and over there it is how things are. It was sickening to read. We as a nation have been numbed to the concept of war to some extent. We realize it is bad, but we don't really mind it all that much. With our military might, there is not a force on earth that could defeat us. Our soldiers can still be killed but I always assumed they could at least rely on one another. I realize now, this is not always the case, and suddenly war seems so much worse.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Poem By Alex Bell

A poem inspired by Jess's experience.

Shade it Black

Across the gunfire, beneath a truck,
flashes light up my collection.
The explosion has done its job,
Oh God how it has done its job!
I must do mine.
How dare they say we are trained,
there is no training to prepare you for this...
Same boots, same belt,
It could be me, it could be me.
I wish it was me.
His pain over, mine just begun.

I freeze.
Feeling inept I lay there motionless, what do I do?
I do nothing, nothing.
A nearby shell shocks me. I start clawing out
at the burnt meat, grabbing all I can see....all I can smell.
Quickly, quickly, get this over with.
No fear. Pure anger.
Body bag partly full I drag myself out.

The Unit greet the old me. She doesn’t exist.
She was left behind in the cold shadow of the truck.
Congratulations on a successful mission
Got there before the enemy. Job well done.
I ignore the high five............
The light falls upon the open bag.
They are also quiet.

A half-finished jigsaw
the marine lays on the table,
We stare at the spaces the bomb has left behind.
I shade these in black on the paperwork.
The inventory begins.

His pockets full of life,
‘Rules of engagement’ neatly folded,
scrunched up trash that didn’t become litter,
a picture of smiles from his high school football team,
a half-full bottle of Blue Star ointment
from his bloodied breast pocket slips a sonogram of a foetus.
The silence now louder.

Alex Bell

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jess Delivers Convocation Speech at Miami University!

   The 4,000 person audience was fully attentive during Jess' 15 minute speech, and many cried. Afterward, people said it was the best Miami convocation ever. Here is a bried segment of her speech.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

From Chris Hedges

Chris has an artticle in the July/August issue of Boston Review. it's titled, War is Betrayal. Here is an excerpt:

Jessica Goodell came to understand that torment only too well, as she relates in her 2011 memoir Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq. Goodell wasn’t poor. She grew up in a middle-class home near Chautauqua Lake in upstate New York. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother worked at home. But her “universe fractured” when she was sixteen and her parents divorced. She could barely continue “the motions of everyday existence.” She was accepted at Ithaca College her senior year, but just before graduation a uniformed Marine came to her high school. He told her he had come to find “tough men.”
“What about tough women?” she asked.
By that afternoon she was in the Marine recruiting office. She told the recruiter she wanted to be part of a tank crew but was informed that women were prohibited from operating tanks. She saw a picture of a Marine standing next to a vehicle with a huge hydraulic arm and two smaller forklift arms. She signed up to be a heavy equipment mechanic, although she knew nothing about it.
Three years later, while stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the desert town of Twentynine Palms, California, she volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps’ first official Mortuary Affairs unit, at Al Taqaddum Airbase in Iraq. Her job, for eight months, was to “process” dead Marines—collect and catalog their bodies and personal effects. She put the remains in body bags and placed the bags in metal boxes. Before being shipped to Dover Air Force Base, the boxes were stored, often for days, in a refrigerated unit known as a “reefer.”
Her unit processed six suicides. The suicide notes, she told me in an interview, almost always cited hazing. Marines who were overweight or unable to do the physical training were subjected to withering verbal and physical abuse. They were called “fat nasties” and “shit bags.” They were assigned to other Marines as slaves. Many were forced to run until they vomited or to bear-crawl—walk on all fours—the length of a football field and back. This would be followed by sets of monkey fuckers—bending down, grabbing the ankles, crouching like a baseball catcher, and then standing up again—and other exercises that went on until the Marines collapsed.
Goodell’s unit was sent to collect the bodies of the Marines who killed themselves. They usually blew their faces off with assault rifles in port-a-johns or in the corners of abandoned bunkers or buildings. She and the other members of the Mortuary Affairs unit would have to scrape the flesh and brain tissue from the walls.
Goodell fell into depression when she returned home. She abused drugs and alcohol. And she watched the slow descent of her comrades as they too tried to blunt the pain with narcotics and self-destructive behavior. She details many of her experiences in Shade It Black, a term that refers to the missing body parts of dead Marines, which she colored black on diagrams of the corpses.
In a poignant passage, she talks about what it was like for her and a fellow Marine named Miguel to come home and see all those yellow ribbons:

We’d frequently pass vehicles displaying the yellow ribbon ‘support-our-troops decal,’ but we never once mentioned it. We probably passed a hundred or more decals—two hundred if you count the multiple decals decorating the cars of the more patriotic motorists—and yet neither of us even once said, ‘Look, more support from the citizenry. Let’s give the ‘thumbs up’ as we pass.’ . . . I knew that these people on their way to work or home or dinner had no idea what it was they were supporting. They did not have a clue as to what war was like, what it made people see, and what it made them do to each other. I felt as though I didn’t deserve their support, or anyone’s, for what I had done. . . . No one should ever support the people who do such things.

Stateside “support” not only reflects the myths of war, but it also forces Goodell and her comrades to suppress their own experiences:
Here we were, leaving the ribbons behind us as we sped up on our way to Hell, probably, where we would pay for the sins these magnetic decals endorsed. There was an irony of sorts shaping the dynamic between our ribbon decal supporters and us. They were uninformed but good people, the kind whose respect we would welcome—if it were based upon something true. It was when we were around them that we had to hide the actual truth most consciously.

    Those who return to speak this truth, like Goodell or Millard, are our contemporary prophets. They struggle, in a culture awash in lies, to tell what few have the fortitude to digest. The words these prophets speak are painful.

Friday, June 15, 2012

From an English Reader

Moving and beautifully written
This review is from: Shade It Black (Hardcover)
We don't read the narrator as a woman for the first few chapters. She is a marine, without gender, until slowly the prejudice shades her in too. This is one of the best books on war I have read, and because it unpacks a woman's place amongst the body bags and latrines it is deeply provocative about what must happen to make soldiers. What is so good, is the writing too. There is much here to learn about humanity and it is all beautifully told.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shade It Black at MU!

(Un)Shading: A Miami University Dialogue on the World Stage

We invite Miami’s newest students, members of the Class of 2015, to enter a composition contest based on the book selected for this year’s Summer Reading Program, Jess Goodell’s Shade It Black. All other Miami students, faculty, and staff are welcome to post their essays as well.
In Shade It Black, Goodell tells us about her firsthand experiences in the Iraq War and its continued influence on her life back home. We invite you to submit a composition (in written, digital, or other forms) that describe how you or someone close to you has been impacted by an event of global significance.
We hope that these compositions will help Miami University highlight ways the people and places of our world have grown increasingly interconnected and the ways we all have a stake in the world stage. While not everyone will have direct involvement with such an event, one of the goals of liberal learning at Miami is to explore ways our daily lives affect and are affected by world events.
You can participate in this exploration in the following ways:

$100 Prizes for New Students

To welcome the Class of 2016, we are offering 16 prizes of $100 apiece for the best “Shade It Black” compositions by incoming first-year students. Students at all Miami campuses are eligible for prizes. The contest opens June 2, 2012. Deadline for prize eligibility: Midnight, October 2, 2012.
Winners will be featured on the website of the Howe Center for Writing Excellence. Prizes are gift certificates to the University Bookstore. This contest is sponsored by Miami’s Howe Center for Writing Excellence and the Office of Liberal Education.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Religion and Politics

A new online journal, Religion and Politics, has just published an essay by Jess and John. It describes a community college course that proved to be a turning point in their lives. You can read it here:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Shade It Black at Miami University. Listen!


Insightful commentary on Jess' upcoming visit to Miami University. Please listen:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shade It Black in Colleges and Universities

Shade It Black has been used in courses taught at Brown University, Norwich University, and Jamestown Community College. We believe it has also been assigned to students at UNLV and Portland State University, though we are not certain. And, of course, it has been chosen by Miami University as their 2012 Summer reading program selection. It has also been used in high school courses in Idaho and California. If you know of other educational institutions whose faculty have assigned the book, please let us know.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thank You, Professor V!

We just received and responded to an email from a professor at Norwich University. Here is our response:

Dear Professor V,
    Thank you very much for asking your students to read Jessica’s story and to consider the validity of her perspective.  She had hoped from the beginning that this project would, in some way, eventually help to improve the operation and effectiveness of the Marines (and the military in general) for all of its members, and for the good of the nation. Your assignment is doing just that.

Here is the email:
I want to let you know that students in my Introductory Sociology classes at Norwich University (the nation's oldest private military college and the birthplace of ROTC) had the option to read Shade it Black this semester. I am now grading the essays they wrote focusing on the experience of token minorities, with Ms. Goodell's story providing a significant portion of their material. I have suggested it as a future summer reading book for incoming students, and for inclusion in our reading & writing for Vets class, as well as in our military literature courses. I am repeatedly struck by how effectively her story resonates with my many male students, and how it opens their eyes. They now "get it" in terms of what it means to be a woman in the Marines, or in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets, or in other organizations. I appreciate greatly Ms. Goodell's contribution to our understanding of what it means to experience persistent discrimination, even from those who mean well. With luck, the students reading her book today will become much more enlightened leaders tomorrow than those we have today. Thank you both.

Jessica Wins Outstanding Female Veteran Award!

The Call of Duty Endowment is proud to announce today’s winner of the Outstanding Female Veteran Award, Jessica Goodell. Jessica would like to donate today’s $1,000 to Veterans Green Jobs, an Endowment partner.
As a former Marine, Jessica Goodell was assigned in 2004 to a Mortuary Affairs unit tasked with collecting, identifying, and transporting the deceased from Iraq. Shortly after she was discharged, she earned a degree in Psychology and is currently working on her PhD. She hopes to become a resident Psychology doctor for the Veteran Affairs Department.
A former Marine and friend of Jessica’s, explained to the Endowment that she has already written one book about her time in the Marines and has shown that she will continue to do outstanding things for Veterans and Service Men and Women alike. “I have seen few Marines endure the stresses she has and make it out alive not only to their own effect but to that which connects all veterans: DUTY.”
The Endowment couldn’t be happier for and more honored to announce Jessica Goodell as an Outstanding Female Veterans. Congrats and thank you for your continued service Jessica!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Incoming first-years to read marine’s tale

Incoming first-years to read marine’s tale
By Megan Thobe
For The Miami Student
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012
Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012 23:03
The Summer Reading Program Committee, made up of 20 Miami students, staff and faculty, recently chose Shade It Black as the novel for the 2012 Summer Reading Program.
Shade It Black tells the story of Jess Goodell and her decision to join the Mortuary Division of the Marine Corp. Goodell was about the age of the incoming first-years when she made the decision to join the Marines.
After her tour in Iraq, Goodell returned to the U.S. where a community college sociology teacher approached her and helped her write the book.
The committee thought long and hard about choosing this potentially controversial book, said committee Co-Chair Jennifer Kinney.
“It was chosen because it’s an important book told from a perspective and voice that we don’t often hear,” Kinney said.
This book is not a political story but instead tells the “raw and real” story about one woman’s experience according to Kinney.
John Jeep, committee co-chair, said choosing Shade it Black was a quick decision.
“What was neat about this book was that we hadn’t decided between Shade It Black and another book,” Jeep said. “We had been talking about it [Shade It Black] for about 45 minutes and we decided ‘probably this is the one.’”
Goodell will be speaking at the 2012 University Convocation held August 17. Jeep said the committee is excited to have Goodell speak.
“I have no idea how she will be as a public speaker,” Jeep said, “we don’t tell her what to say, so her words will be her own.”
Goodell’s story is an important one to hear, according to Kinney.
“I’m hoping she talks about coming home and re-integrating in society and how education helped her with that,” Kinney said.
The 2012 Summer Reading Program Committee began reading and talking about potential summer reading program books in October 2011. Between 50 and 60 potential books were read and discussed by the committee.
“There are some books that are great reads but aren’t right for the summer reading program,” Kinney said. “Sometimes we are on the fence about a book and need a second opinion.”
The student voice is given the most weight on the committee and no book is chosen without “passionate support from students,” Jeep said.
Senior Adam Howe, a three year Summer Reading Program Committee member, presented Shade It Black to the group.
“I was on the edge about Shade It Black at first,” Howe said. “It was powerful, and I wasn’t sure if it was powerful in the way that we need it to be. I know that it’s something that needs to be shared.”
The 2012 Summer Reading Program is only the latest of a long standing tradition of introducing the new class of Miami students to liberal arts education.
According to Jeep, the potential pay-off of the summer reading program is to have students begin thinking about different ideas and points of view at a higher level.
Committee member, Kate de Medeiros, said Shade it Black is meets the need of the Summer Reading Program well.
“One of the goals of the Miami plan is to develop critical thinking in students,” Medinos said. “This book through all the complexity of topics, controversies and insights it provides for discussion, is an excellent starting point for just that.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Shade It Black in the Schools and Universities

We are always pleased and humbled to learn that our book is being used in a variety of high schools, colleges and universities. After reading the book, a group of Idaho high school students interviewed Jess via Skype. I just discovered that excerpts from the book are assigned to students in a course titled Military Violence that is being taught this semester. Please let us know if you are aware of additional instances in which Shade It Black is being read in the schools and universities.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Significant Honor!

This is from Miami University's Summer Reading program Facebook page:

One of the lead candidates for Miami's 2012 summer reading is Goodell and Hearn’s "Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq." The committee is wondering if anyone on this list has ever read it and, if so, what thoughts you might have about its possibility as a summer reading. Interested in any feedback you might have.

Friday, January 27, 2012

From Casemate Publishers

"A special point of pride for us was Jess Goodell’s memoir, Shade It Black, which earned national acclaim. Assisted by the calm hand of her co-author, John Hearn, Jess revealed an aspect of our recent Iraq War that was unique and rarely heard, as well as the experience of being a female US Marine."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

George Hartner's Contradictions

    We were very fortunate to have George Hartner allow us to post on this website his song War. Originally inspired by Sebastian Junger's book by the same title, George was prompted to rewrite several of the lyrics after reading our book, Shade It Black. In doing so, he captured several important aspects of Jess' story, which will tie that song to Jess forever. Everyone who has heard War has been moved by it. It is now a part of George's first official release, titled, Contradictions. I own a copy and do not tire of listening to its wonderful melodies and thought-provoking lyrics. You may read more about it here:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We are a staff pick!

Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq
by Jessica Goodell
Staff Pick
I first heard Jessica Goodell's haunting voice on NPR and immediately knew I had to read her book. Goodell served in the Marines in Iraq in the Mortuary Affairs Unit and was responsible for retrieving and organizing the remains and personal effects of fallen soldiers. By far the most sensitively written war memoir I have ever read, her story stayed with me for weeks after I read the last page. Goodell covers the horrors of her particularly gruesome assignment and her attempts to reintegrate to life back home. It's rare that we are allowed a glimpse into the culture of the Marines from the perspective of a female soldier, and rarer still to learn what really happens after soldiers are killed in combat.
Recommended by Serra,