GREENVILLE, PA —Joshua Casteel followed a very all-American path to an unlikely destination—from academic and athletic achievement in high school to enlistment in the U.S. Army Reserves at 17 to West Point at 18 to an honorable discharge at 25 as a conscientious objector. As part of Thiel College’s Community Building Initiative, Casteel will share his story during the first Community Experience event on Monday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Lutheran Heritage Room of the Howard Miller Student Center on Thiel’s campus.
After being called up to active duty less than 30 days after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and literature, Casteel trained first as an interrogator and then spent one and a half years at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., studying Arabic. From June 2004 to January 2005, Casteel served at the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib, Iraq as a member of the interrogation units sent to overhaul the prison in the wake of the abuse scandal.
Shortly after discharge from service, Casteel began writing and speaking widely about his wartime experiences, serving on the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War and chairing IVAW’s religious dialogue committee. He is currently a dual-Master’s of Fine Art candidate at the prestigious University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop and the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, where he teaches theatre history and rhetoric. Casteel also is a student of theology at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to two plays —“Returns: A Meditation in Post-trauma” and “Ishmael and Isa”—that chronicle his experiences in Iraq, Casteel is also writing a memoir, which narrates his eight years in the U.S. Army and eventual conversion from nationalist Evangelical Christianity to Catholic pacifism.
A free screening of “Soldiers of Conscience,” a documentary featuring Casteel and other members of the military who wrestled with their consciences while serving in Iraq will be shown on September 18 at 7 p.m. in S-100 of the Academic Center at Thiel. “Soldiers of Conscience” will receive its national television premiere on “P.O.V.,” PBS’s acclaimed documentary series, on October 16 at 9 p.m. (Check your local PBS listings.)
The Community Building Initiative is a new effort to renew a sense of community and togetherness on Thiel’s campus as well as between Thiel and the greater Greenville Community. The Community Building Initiative has a five-tiered approach to community building, including Community Experience, Community Gatherings, Community Traditions, Community Worship and Community Greening events.
All Community Building Initiative events are free and open to the public.
For more information, call 724-589-2106 or visit www.thiel.edu/cbi.