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Remembering Joshua Casteel
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285 34th Street SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
Joshua was trained as an Arabic translator and deployed with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion to Abu Ghraib prison working as an interrogator from June 2004 to January 2005. Upon his return, Joshua applied for conscientious objector status and was honorably discharged in May 2005. His story is featured in the documentary film Soldiers of Conscience:
Joshua enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves at age 17, and later enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The rigidity and conformity of West Point was a turnoff so he left after just three months. The University of Iowa helped Casteel land on his feet, but his ROTC experience was similar to West Point.
With the military a lesser priority, Joshua enrolled at a university in Colorado for a year before returning to Iowa to earn his B.A. in Literature, Science, and Arts in 2002. He then earned a dual M.F.A. in Playwriting and Non-Fiction Writing, also from the University of Iowa in 2008. Joshua was working as a Graduate Arts Management Fellow at the University of Chicago before he was diagnosed with cancer.
Joshua served on IVAW’s Board of Directors in 2006. In addition, he stood with war resister Ricky Clousing at a press conference before Ricky turned himself in to the military. (Starting at 16:00 min)
In March 2008, Joshua led a panel on Racism and Dehumanization at Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2010, he testified at the Truth Commission on Conscience and War.
Joshua believed his illness was a result of his service in Iraq where he was exposed to the toxic fumes from burn pits and had submitted a compensation claim with the Veterans Administration.
Joshua was invited to speak at over 50 venues worldwide, including the UK, Sweden, South Korea, as well as two national tours of Ireland. In 2006, Joshua appeared on the stage of the Royal Court Theatre for Human Rights Watch’s Cries From the Heart performing a monologue from his play Returns, which premiered at the University of Iowa in February 2007, and then at Columbia College in Chicago. Some of Joshua’s essays on war and Christian ethics have become part of course curricula at Wheaton College and Duke Divinity School. He was also featured in the documentary film Iraq for Sale.
He grew up a in a devoted evangelical Christian household. His father Everett “Rick” Casteel, also an Army veteran, founded Caleb Ministries, a counseling and mediation agency in Cedar Rapids. Sadly, Rick also succumbed to cancer in 2010 and Joshua was with his father during those difficult days.
Our deepest sympathies go out to his loving family. Joshua was an inspiration to many of us in the military and veterans community. His conviction and willingness to speak the truth was an example to us all. Joshua was truly a soldier of conscience. May he rest in peace.