Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shade It Black, Death and After in Iraq

Shade It Black, Death and After in Iraq by Jessica Goodell

Listen to her interview in Fresh Air:
"In the Mortuary Affairs unit, one of Goodell's responsibilities was to sort through the pockets and belongings of troops lost in combat. She found all sorts of things — crumpled up napkins, pictures, spoons, letters, even sonograms of their soon to be born children.
Jess Goodell spent eight months in the the Marine Corps' Mortuary Affairs unit, cataloging the bodies and personal effects of fallen troops in Iraq. She now lives in Buffalo, N.Y., and plans to attend graduate school in the fall.

Goodell says that one of the most difficult parts of the job was diagramming the body outlines of the deceased. On the body diagram, she would document identifying marks such as scars, tattoos and birthmarks. If a body part was missing or not found, Goodell was instructed to shade that part of the diagram black.

The job stayed with Goodell day and night during her time in Iraq. "I don't think I ever stopped smelling death when I was in Iraq," she says. "Part of the reason that the smell seemed to linger was ... being a Marine in Iraq at that time, laundry services only occurred every couple of weeks, so even if we were careful and very clean in the bunker, the smell just seemed to cling to us. It seemed to cling to our uniforms. And at least for me, once I smelled that smell of death, I just couldn't stop smelling it."

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