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Joshua Casteel (In Memory) bio picture
  • "If I am bound to the belief that God is in control of the cosmos, and miracles can and do happen, then there is no 'hypothetical situation' wherein God's ability to perform miracles through the faithful actions of the merciful ceases to be a possibility."

    Joshua's above words continue to resonate with us, his family, friends and acquaintances seeking to live out that same belief. Though he is no longer with us bodily, we strive to faithfully remember and testify to Joshua's witness among us, through the establishment of The Joshua Casteel Foundation and other initiatives on which we will continue to provide update through this website. Thank you for joining us.

    "The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest." (Wisdom 4:7)

    Joshua was diagnosed in early November 2011 with stage IV lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), which ultimately took his life on August 25, 2012 at the age of 32. The many of us who survive and love him will continue to pursue the heavenly justice to which Joshua (in life, and now in death) testified.

Perspective is Everything

Two years ago on a very sad day in August, as Joshua lay sick and dying in a hospital in New York City, a very special woman who also bore cancer in her body and whom Joshua and I were extremely privileged to meet and eventually call our good friend said to me: “We both know who Joshua is, how he has lived his life, and the faith that has grounded him throughout his life. If we know there is something beyond our life here and Someone is in charge of the plan that decides when we get to begin the new life we’re promised, then we can never say that we ‘lost our battle’ to cancer.  Cancer is only the vehicle God may use to bring us home. It was how Joshua lived his life that enabled him to win the victory over cancer before it ever invaded his body. Cancer is actually irrelevant in the assessment of our lives or our deaths, if we look through the lens of what we know to be true.”

There is no doubt that Joshua’s personal victories were a result of free gifts from God, of faith and grace, which empowered him to do what he did.  Whether it be in Iraq facing his supposed enemy and choosing to see him as a man in need of redemption and love no different than himself, writing and speaking about the true nature of God’s design for his creation achieved through faith, hope, and love helping to produce true justice and peace, or ultimately winning his personal and final battle demonstrating great courage in the face of great suffering and ultimately death.  It is that grace put into action and fueled by the passion of love that we want to see carried on through the Joshua Casteel Foundation.

Since Joshua’s death we have seen God use his life and legacy to carry on the work that he so passionately lived out while he was still with us. We are currently working with a publishing company to publish a second version of Letters from Abu Ghraib and hope to reach a new and expanded audience.  Stanley Hauerwas has agreed to write an additional forward which we are very excited about.

We are also beginning negotiations with a young composer in the UK who is interested in turning Joshua’s first play, Returns, into an opera.  This will be an extremely creative, interesting, and exciting project to see come to life.

In addition, we have reached out to an excellent organization called Preemptive Love Coalition that has been on the ground in Iraq for years.  PLC provides lifesaving surgeries for children with major heart defects caused from the many environmental hazards of war.  Their motto is, “Pursuing peace, one heart at a time”.  We are very interested in their philosophy of loving unconditionally those who agree with us and those who don’t. In Jeremy Courtney’s words, “Love first and ask questions, later”.  Jeremy, the co-founder of PLC, is Joshua’s age and how I wish they could have met!!  Whether it is PLC or other organizations on the ground in Iraq, we plan to become involved in projects that will continue to aid the Iraqi people. This would be a specific dream of Joshua’s realized, thus hopefully bringing about a measure of reconciliation.

I have also recently been contacted by a writer friend of Joshua’s from the University of Iowa who is interested in writing an article for a major magazine about the military’s use of burn pits, using his story.  We’re very happy to see that the issue of the burn pits and its effects on soldiers has not gone away yet and we very much appreciate the opportunity to help her in her efforts to raise awareness. We continue to believe that enough public awareness and pressure put on those responsible for their existence will bring their use to an end.  It is certainly still one of our goals.

Lastly we are in the process of setting up a new and informative website that will serve our interested supporters and onlookers in a more concise and organized way.  We hope it will be inspirational, educational, and informative, as well as offer ways for you to get involved in helping to change the world in ways you never thought possible … to become dreamers with us, following in Joshua’s footsteps.

I have lately come to the realization that it is Joshua’s generation that is bringing a genuine, powerful, fresh, and deeply compassionate vision back to the church with an inclusive love that Jesus himself taught much more clearly than we have focused on for generations.  And I see a fearless but passionate commitment to live out, rather than just preach, the truth of Christ in a way that has real power to change people and ultimately the world.  But it is hard and demands sacrifice and oftentimes suffering. And yet I oftentimes still find myself feeling overwhelmed and afraid to move out into arenas that I’m unfamiliar with, especially at this stage of my life. And yet I have to ask myself: “Isn’t this the heritage of the ‘church alive’ that I long for and what I want my life’s legacy to be as well, regardless of the cost?”

With all of the above goals in mind our first official fund raising letter will soon be sent out to draw into our circle those people who also have a desire to follow through with such dreams and the works that Joshua had to leave unfinished but that we now have the opportunity to carry on.

So we hope this August 25th (the second anniversary of Josh’s death) you will maybe take some time to think about Joshua and the passions you shared to see the world become a more loving place.  We also hope you take the time to ask yourself (and God) if you feel called to join us as we endeavor to bring hope and help to those in need and make the dreams of helping to create peace and justice in the world more of a reality. Joshua was very convinced that he could not achieve his dreams alone, that he needed community to help him on his journey.  And we are convinced as well that it will take each of us doing our part – but doing it together – to see the world change.

Lastly, on August 25th in memory of and upon reflection of Joshua’s life and your relationship with him, I want to invite everyone who would like to join us to release balloons up to the heavens. And if you so wish tie on a personal note to Joshua or maybe your dreams or commitment of what you hope to do to bring about change in the world. If you do decide to take part in the balloon release it would be wonderful to receive pictures from you so we can post them as encouragement to everyone who may see them.  Posting on Facebook would be great as well.

In the same way that our friend refused to look at her cancer as something that she would ‘lose her life to’, I believe Joshua refused to lose his life to mediocrity or in the end believe that he ‘lost’ at all.  Rather he believed his suffering and death served a purpose and we hope to continue to carry out that purpose.  I hope you’ll join us in doing so.

I want to end this annual tribute to Joshua by linking to a song that I used in a talk I gave at a peace conference in Maryland where I chronicled his life and the heart of a ‘peacemaker’. The song, so worth listening to, encourages us all to move beyond our comfort zone in faith and ‘refuse to play it safe or do nothing’.  I hope it inspires you and brings back fond memories of your encounters with Joshua.

It’s entitled “I Refuse”…by Josh Wilson:

– Kristi


August 25, 2014 - 2:24 PM

Little Brother Michael St. Jacques - Blessed Repose and Memory Eternal dearest brother Joshua Isaac Casteel!
Your presence and spirit are felt and continue to motivate us to look for better ways to be the men and women made in God’s image and likeness we have been called to be. Thank you so much for your life and the offering of your life for peace and the message and living out, crying out of the Gospel with our lives!

January 25, 2015 - 10:27 PM

Michael Snow - Wow, this blew me away. I just watched a youtube video that was posted on the ‘Pacifist Fight Club’ site of Joshua’s testimony. His story, in rough outline, paralles my own (a generation earlier) and I wanted to find out more about him. I left a comment on the site noting his name was Yeshua. And now I find he died in his 33rd year.
I found that he was born in SD and raised in Iowa (my sequence was just the reverse!). I’m from south of Sioux Falls.

The Joshua Casteel Foundation: Update

It has been a while since we updated, but a lot has been going on behind the scenes of the Joshua Casteel Foundation!  We are now an official non-profit and are working hard to realize the legacy that Joshua left for us and thus, the mission ahead of us, which is to promote peace, justice and reconciliation and care for those impacted by war. As Joshua’s mother and the President of the Foundation, right now Kristi is leading our efforts.  Over the next few months Kristi will have the opportunity to testify on behalf of Joshua about the effects of the burn pits and speak about Joshua’s life and legacy of peace.  These events are open to the public and we hope that some of you will be able to participate:

(1) People’s Hearing on the Lasting Impact of the Iraq War

Moderated by Phil Donahue, creator and host of The Phil Donahue Show and Co-Director and Co-Producer of the film Body of War.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doors open at 6:00 p.m.; Panel and Livestream at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Friends Meeting of Washington; 2111 Florida Avenue NW; Washington, DC 20008-1912



Facebook event:

(2)   The 29th Annual Peace, Justice, & Environment Conference

Peace and Justice through the Generations:  Passing the Torch for a Better World

Friday, April 25th

St. Philips Episcopal Church

730 Bestgate Road, Annapolis, MD 21201


Saturday, April 26th

Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis

333 Dubois Road, Annapolis, MD 21401 • 410-266-8044

(3) Returns

Joshua’s play Returns is going to be performed in Canton, Ohio over Memorial Day.

(4) Bishop Dingman Award

Kristi will be present to support the 19th recipient of the Bishop Dingman Peace Award.

Catholic Peace Ministry’s Maurice J. Dingman Peace Award is given each year in memory and in honor of Maurice Dingman, the late bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines revered for his commitment to justice, peace and equality.

April 26, 2014 - 9:39 AM

Coralie Farlee - With a “.com” website, one would make the assumption that your organization is NOT 501(c)(3).

I asked you anout your tax- exempt status at the annapolis conference today.

Coralie farlee wilpf dc

May 22, 2014 - 3:04 PM

Chad N - Coralie,

Thank you so much for your interest, and for speaking with Kristi at the conference! The Joshua Casteel Foundation is incorporated as a non-profit corporation, and we are awaiting confirmation of our status as a 501(c)(3) before the IRS, which we have been assured is forthcoming. The website address predates the incorporation of the foundation, as it was initially a place for us to support Joshua prior to his passing. We are investigating purchasing “.org” addresses to clear up any confusion, though of course the use of a “.com” address has no bearing on our 501(c)(3) status.

I reply as a board member who has been working on our organizational matters, and would be happy to answer any further inquiries you may have at

Kind regards,

The Call for Peace Continues…

I received the following homily by Pope Francis from our good friends at Catholic Peace Fellowship at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. We are so grateful for all that they do day in and day out, year in and year out to promote the cause of peace, justice, and non-violence.

We are also so thankful as a foundation when religious leaders risk their own reputations and/or popularity by taking very unpopular stands on such important and controversial issues such as peace and non-violence, especially in the militarized culture of today’s world. It is more than rare to see such strength of conviction that stems so obviously from a heart of compassion and love as is the case with Pope Francis. He is more than a ‘breath of fresh air’ to the world, he is a true ‘gift from God’.


Dear Friends,

Peace. We share with you Pope Francis’s words from this morning on war, peace and the Christian call.

In Christ,
The CPF Staff
– – –

Pope Francis: The Spirit of War Draws Us Away from God

“War is a scandal to be mourned every day. We see war in the newspapers ever and we’re used to reading about it: the number of its victims is just part of our daily accounts. We hold events to commemorate the centenary of the Great War and everyone is scandalized by the many millions of dead. But today it’s the same… instead of one great war, there are small wars everywhere. When we were children in Sunday School and we were told the story of Cain and Abel, we couldn’t accept that someone would kill their own brother. And yet today millions kill their own brothers and we’re used to it: there are entire peoples divided, killing each other over a piece of land, a racial hatred, an ambition.

Think of the children starving in refugee camps… these are the fruits of war. And then think of the great dining rooms, of the parties held by those who control the arms industry, who produce weapons. Compare a sick, starving child in a refugee camp with the big parties, the good life led by the masters of the arms trade. And remember, the Pope added, that the wars, the hatred, the hostility aren’t products we buy at the market: they’re right here, in our hearts. The Apostle James gives us a simple piece of advice: ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ But the spirit of war, which draws us away from God, doesn’t just reside in distant parts of the world: the spirit of war comes from our own hearts.

Let us pray for peace, for that peace which seems to have been reduced to a word and nothing more. Let us follow James’ advice: ‘Recognize your misery.’ Let us recognize that misery which breeds wars within families, within neighborhoods, everywhere. How many of us weep when we read the newspapers, when we see the dead on television? This is what Christians should do today, in the face of war: we should weep, we should mourn.”

– Homily given by Pope Francis at the Casa San Marta on February 25, A.D. 2014 (*We are grateful for the English Translation provided by

Armistice Day…Joshua’s Witness Continues On

A few nights ago a friend sent me a link to the November 7th edition of the National Catholic Reporter Magazine. The article was encouraging discussion of the role of militarism in our country and in our churches. I was shocked to see that the article featured Joshua. It offered him as an example of someone who struggled with the big question of whether or not his identity as a follower of Christ conflicted with his identity as a soldier and how he came to the conclusion while serving as an interrogator at Abu Grhaib Prison that his first allegiance was to God and the message that Christ preached of “loving one’s enemies.”

While from the outside it may have appeared that Joshua’s decision to become a conscientious objector was formed and finalized in Iraq, in reality it was a lifelong journey that had several twists and turns that God led him on to build into his life a message of love and reconciliation vs. violence and retaliation. The journey ultimately cost him his life which Joshua willingly gave with the hope that his suffering would somehow bring redemption to the Iraqi people that had been devastated by the war he had been a part of.

What I am most thankful for in this holiday season of Thanksgiving is that God gave me a son whose deep faith and trust in God gave him the courage, love, and determination to follow Christ even when it cost him everything and to proclaim Christ’s message of love all the way to the cross. And I thank God that He continues to let his voice resonate with others continuing his message of hope for a changed world, one that embraces love rather than retreating to violence. My prayer is that he will stand as a symbol of courage and hope to others in the church that one voice, one life can make a difference.

Below is the article. I hope it inspires you to think deeply and to act courageously
God’s blessings to you all this Thanksgiving season and on this Armistice Day of Remembrance..

Kristi Casteel; for The Joshua Casteel Foundation

Editorial: Questioning our assent to militarism
NCR Editorial Staff | Nov. 7, 2013
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EDITORIAL Joshua Casteel was a young man of deep and serious intent who found himself confronting two conflicting realities in 2004: his role as a soldier and interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and his growing conviction the Gospel that was increasingly capturing his heart and his imagination told him the war and occupation were unjust.
Casteel was just 32 when he died of cancer in 2012, but he left behind a legacy of struggling with huge and demanding questions that would have filled several ordinary lifetimes. As a 2009 NCR profile described him, he had traveled the distance “from conservative evangelical to ardent Roman Catholic” and “from West Point appointee to crusading pacifist.”

His life remains significant today because of the compelling questions it raises for Christians living in the most militarized country on earth and especially for those within a church that maintains the apparatus for a military archdiocese. That Archdiocese for the Military Services is now asking U.S. Catholics to support it through a national collection. The questions are raised anew, starkly, in the provocative essay by Mark Scibilia-Carver. While we would have reservations about some of Scibilia-Carver’s conclusions, he is profoundly correct to place the appeal for money for the military archdiocese directly next to the words of three popes of recent years, all of whom unqualifiedly condemn state violence and even question whether a “just war” is possible in this era. The most recent declaration is from Pope Francis: “There can be no religious justification of violence in whatever way it manifests itself.”

Long overdue in the American church is a reasoned and deep discussion of U.S. militarism, the proper use of force, the state’s responsibility to protect and defend, and the role of people of faith in all of this. To this point, Catholic teaching has had little effect in distinguishing us from any other segment of society when it comes to participation in wars and militarism.

In 2012, the United States spent more on its military — $682 billion — than the next 10 countries — China, Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil — combined. We are trying to extricate ourselves from the second of two wars that have cost our treasury — quite apart from the annual defense budget expenditures — more than $2 trillion already. According to a study by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Linda Bilmes, the total cost of those two wars, when considering the long-term costs of providing medical care for the thousands of injured veterans, will exceed $4 trillion.

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All of that far outstrips what the U.S. pays annually on entitlements. The defense budget itself is more expensive in a given year than any other single budget item, save for Social Security. And yet the military gets a relatively free pass when talk turns to budget cutting and deficit trimming.

Does a greater threat exist to religious liberty, family life, adherence to the heart of the Gospel than to allow the state and its military recruiters unfettered and unchallenged access to our children? Would we, without question, hand over lists of those in our schools to any other institution knowing that if the recruiters are successful, the children will ultimately be schooled in the ways of violence?

Yet our bishops have nothing to say.

The collection for the military archdiocese brings the glorification of militarism into the sanctuary. It asks U.S. Catholics to give assent to militarism to a degree that is breathtaking for a Christian denomination. We hope bishops resist the idea of flyovers or singing the national anthem at Mass. No one is suggesting that Catholics anywhere should go without spiritual guidance and support. We are strongly suggesting, however, that Catholics need to challenge the church’s unquestioning compliance with the pervasive demands of U.S. militarism.

A stubborn, persistent strain runs through Catholic history, highlighted in figures such as St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi — whose lives gain new prominence today in the papacy of Francis — of conversion from war to the ways of the nonviolent Christ. Along with heroic military chaplains, the church has also sent on the path to sainthood the Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to join the German war effort in World War II because he found it unjust and incompatible with his understanding of the Christian Gospel. Those examples show, certainly, that the church can honor consciences variously formed and exercised.

But what kind of formation are we providing our young in this era of weapons of unimaginable destruction, in this age of drones and borderless wars, where assassination missions are carried out via robot within sovereign nations with whom we are not at war?

One of the more tragic elements in Casteel’s journey from warrior to pacifist was his failure to find a Catholic chaplain with whom he could discuss his growing reluctance to participate in war. He said he found commanding officers more sympathetic to his point of view and more willing to smooth the way to conscientious objector status than he encountered in any of the priests he consulted. Who would hesitate to hold up Casteel as possessing, in that scenario, the most compelling understanding of the Gospel?

Shouldn’t young Catholics, instead of hearing rousing support for the military from their pulpits and parish bulletins, be told that the nonviolent Christ and his command to love enemies might pose an obstacle to a military career?

This story appeared in the Nov 8-21, 2013 print issue under the headline: Questioning our assent to militarism .


August was the month we said good-bye to Joshua last year and we did our best this year to focus on the reality of his life going on through what he left behind in his works but especially in the lives of those he touched with our Faith In Action Project.

I’m sure we all share the hope that his suffering and eventual death will not have been in vain…hence, the Joshua Casteel Foundation. But I especially need to remind myself often that his real legacy lies in who he was as a person and how that impacted everything he did and everyone whose lives he touched. This truth gives me the strength and courage to continue on while carrying within me the ongoing pain of my indescribable loss.

So, today being the one year anniversary of his memorial, I wanted to honor him in a very personal way that very simply states the character and person who was my son.  Below is a picture of a large wall hanging that I bought only a week ago.  When I saw and read it I immediately thought of Joshua as I believe it perfectly describes who he was.  It will hang in the foundation office where it will not only remind me of him but remind me to strive myself to be what it describes.

I hope you enjoy seeing it as well and that it brings fond memories to mind for you today of your relationship and interactions with Joshua and that it also inspires you to be more of the person God made you to be.

And, God’s blessings on us all and our world this weekend , as we respond to Pope Francis’ call to a day of prayer (yesterday Sept.7th) for peace in our world and no more war, especially in the wake of the horrors taking place in Syria and the Middle East. And for those of us who profess a real faith in God, may we take seriously Jesus’ words to “not return evil for evil” and to “bless those who persecute you”, to “love our enemies”.  How fitting that it came on the same weekend as the  anniversary of Joshua’s memorial. This, in and of itself, honors him and what he stood for in the best possible way. May we all carry this ongoing prayer in our hearts and in our actions.

God’s peace to you all,

Kristi and the Joshua Casteel Foundation

September 9, 2013 - 8:22 AM

Kathy Collett - Love to Josh’s family today and prayers for peace and self-sacrifice.