Joshua meets Pope Benedict
My dear friend Joshua Casteel died last night after a very brave battle with cancer. He was 32.
Joshua was the author of "Letters from Abu Ghraib," a collection of email messages he sent to his friends and family during his service as a US Army interrogator and Arabic linguist in the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion. The book provides an intimate record of a soldier in moral conflict with his duties. Challenged by his experiences in Iraq, he sought and obtained an early discharge as conscientious objector. “I can count on one hand the number of people who were guilty of anything worse than being an Arab,” Casteel said. “These were young fathers, local laborers, veterans of previous wars, imams. I had to interrogate a 14-year-old boy who was terrified because he was missing his school exams. In no unreal terms, we were trying to get blood from a turnip.”
Joshua also wrote several plays performed in the US and abroad, including “Returns” and “The Interrogation Room.”
I last saw Joshua in May last year at the University of Chicago, where he was working on a graduate degree in the School of Theology. Here’s a photo taken that day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/5691844449/
Few people have inspired me so much as Joshua. I take a bit of comfort in knowing he achieved more in his relatively short life than most of us during much longer lives. I think of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem: "I burn my candle at both ends / it shall not last the night / but ah my friends / and oh my foes / it makes a lovely light."
Joshua lived -- and died -- a Christ-shaped life.
Remember Joshua in your prayers and also his bereft mother Naomi.
a few links:
Joshua Casteel acceptance speech of Bishop Dingman Peace Award - March 31, 2012:
A six-minute excerpt from the movie, Soldiers of Conscience, in which Joshua featured prominently:
Obituary posted yesterday on the Pax Christi USA web site:
One of Joshua’s Lenten reflections: