Earlier this evening Jean Stokan wrote to tell me that Joshua Casteel had passed away from the cancer he has been fighting for some time now. Josh was a good friend to Pax Christi USA, serving as a speaker at a number of our national and regional conferences and other events, authoring our 2009 Lenten reflection booklet, and inspiring us through his words and witness. Many of you know Josh’s story: he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves at age 17 and received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at 18; after training as an interrogator and studying Arabic, he served at the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, from June 2004 to January 2005, as a member of the interrogation units sent to overhaul the prison after the prisoner abuse scandal; during his time at Abu Ghraib, hecame to realize he was a conscientious objector and was honorably discharged from Active Duty as a conscientious objector. Josh wrote and spoke on his experiences during war, served on the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and published Letters From Abu Ghraib in 2008.
All of us at Pax Christi USA have a heavy heart tonight. We mourn with those who were closest to Josh, and we celebrate all that Josh was and is and will forever be. He was a man of depth, compassion, clarity and humor, and it was a joy to all of us who got to meet and know him. His spirit and his story inspired us and called us to reflect more deeply on who God is and who we are. We are so grateful to him for everything he gave us.
You can read one of Josh’s Lenten reflections, published in our newsletter in 2009, by clicking here.
Josh also had a CaringBridge site to help share with family and friends his story as he went through treatment for cancer. You can read more by clicking here.
Below is a video excerpt from the movie, Soldiers of Conscience, in which Josh featured prominently. The excerpt is from Josh’s story.