Casemate’s much anticipated new book SHADE IT BLACK: Death and After in Iraq is now available.
After graduating from high school in 2001, Jessica Goodell enlisted in the Marine Corp. Keen to serve her country in a time of war; she headed off to training at Parris Island and along with all the other recruits, became a Marine.
In 2004, she volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps’ first officially declared Mortuary Affairs (MA) unit in Iraq. The MA unit’s mission is to recover and process the remains of dead soldiers and Iraqi civilians.
As one of only two females in the unit, Goodell was not willing to acquiesce to the dominant male Marine culture by sleeping around, so she remained aloof and got a rep as an outcast. When more and more bodies began coming in, the whole unit was eventually ostracized and treated as outcasts on the base.
Goodell’s introspective observations are sometimes eerie but always unique and provide a good look inside a young person who is thrust into such a horrific job. Her searing portrait of the debilitating effects the work has on the unit, physically, psychologically, and emotionally is not for the faint of heart. All members in the unit have difficulty eating, many lose weight, most have difficulty sleeping and coping with every day life and some actually lose their minds.
Upon completing her tour of duty on the MA platoon, Goodell returned to the States and received minimal support from the military in her efforts to assimilate back into civilian life. She, along with other members from the unit, suffered mental, physical and emotional breakdowns as they tried to deny or repress much of what they experienced. Some couldn’t assimilate at all and just reenlisted. For Goodell and others it took years before they could confront their own fears and the horrors of what they’d been through day in and day out in Iraq.
“It took several months for me to get all of the story out by means of responding to the questions which my co-writer, John Hearn, had prepared,” says Goodell. “It was very difficult for me to talk about because of the nature of the work we performed in Iraq, I denied and suppressed much of the experience. I didn’t look at the first draft for almost two years but when I was ready I contacted my fellow platoon members and asked what they remembered. Most of the guys I spoke with said they wanted to forget the whole experience. Reliving the past has given me the opportunity to reflect upon my own actions.”
In sharing with us the story of her own journey, Goodell also helps us to better understand how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects female veterans. With the assistance of John Hearn, she has written one of the most unique accounts of America’s current wars overseas yet seen.
Meantime, author Jess Goodell has had a busy couple of weeks. Last Tuesday she appeared at NYC’s Book Expo America, where SHADE IT BLACK was reviewed in the Show Daily magazine and Jess signed copies of her new book and talked to readers. Jess followed up her signing with an interview with RT-TV (check it out on YouTube). Then it was off to the airport to catch a flight to Las Vegas, where she spoke at UNLV’s Combat Trauma Conference.
The buzz has been building steadily since Jess started working on SHADE IT BLACK, with a write up by Chris Hedges on Truthdig March 21, 2011, interviews with Mike Malloy, Bob Edwards Show May 4, 2011, Robyn Leary Recovery Talk on May 13, 2011, Talk Radio Europe May 17, 2011, ABC’s Channel 8 News Now Las Vegas May 25, 2011, and she is booked for the Veterans for Peace National Convention August 3-7, 2011. Stay tuned for an interview with Jess later this week!