An Upper Iowa University alumnus, former Marine combat engineer and author discussed his transitional pathway after military service to current and former military personnel attending the Iowa Statewide Veterans Conference at UIU’s Fayette Campus in September. A native of Massapequa, New York, Chris Pascale ’11 struggled with post-traumatic stress before attaining a bachelor’s degree in marketing at UIU and authoring “War Poems: A Marine’s Tour 2003-2008.”
Hosted by Iowa’s Advisory Council on Military Education, the Iowa Statewide
Veterans Conference included guest speakers, networking opportunities and a resource fair. In addition to UIU, representatives from Iowa’s three regent universities, Iowa National Guard, Home Base Iowa, and various other military support organizations, community colleges and private universities were in attendance. UIU was the first private university to host the annual event.
Currently a member of the Office of the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service, Pascale joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 21. Graduating from basic training as the battalion iron man, he was deployed in 2005 to Fallujah, Iraq, where he served as a combat engineer. He finished his military service in 2008 as a platoon sergeant and engineer battalion safety manager. He and his wife, Kristeena ‘11, currently reside with their four daughters in West Babylon, New York.
Perseverance leads to literary dream
War Poems is a culmination of approximately 1,000 rejections from publishers and agents endured by the aspiring author over a 15-year period. Pascale explained he completed writing his first novel at the age of 19. After being rejected by hundreds of publishers, he made another attempt at writing another book at the age of 22 only to experience the same results. It wasn’t until he submitted an entry from his latest effort (War Poems) a decade later that his literary dream would be realized.
A mixture of classic poetry and a coming-of-age memoir, War Poems provides clear context of the emotional turmoil Pascale experienced as a Marine combat engineer. Published by Merriam Press, the book entails the financial hardships the author’s family endured on a corporal’s wages and the struggles they faced when he experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) upon his return from Iraq.
“Looking back now, I know I carried the PTSD symptoms before I even left Iraq,” Pascale said following his presentation at UIU. “But I didn’t realize how bad it was until around Christmas 2005 when I started having periods where I would scream at myself while driving home from work. I would then break down crying uncontrollably in our driveway before pulling myself together and walk into the house and do the whole, ‘Honey, I’m home,’ routine.”
As another example, Kristeena later informed her husband that he would search and clear the family’s home in his sleep. Although he apparently did this quite frequently, Chris has no recollection of these occurrences.
“It wasn’t until years later when I finished my bachelor’s degree at UIU and had moved on professionally that it felt like the fog was lifting,” Pascale admitted. “It was when I was able to start saying that the most interesting thing about me was that I had four daughters, and not that I worked with special forces in Fallujah, that I was able to move forward. I began to put the Marines behind me because I could start to do other things.”
UIU experience leads to continued success
Chris and Kristeena both graduated Cum Laude from UIU’s Fort Polk Center. Chris attained a marketing degree, while his wife majored in social science.
“The support staff at UIU-Fort Polk was incredible,” he said. “There was also a great array of professors who were either retired or active duty military personnel to teach very complex classes. All of the staff and faculty were there whenever I needed help. The success I enjoyed at UIU led to my success in a very competitive graduate program and furthering my career.”
“There is so much staff support universitywide for students and our veterans,” Pascale closed. “I love the Military and Veterans Service Center (MVSC) at Fayette Campus. Students can relax and do their homework in a comfortable setting there. I can only imagine how much of a positive effect that has on veterans attending UIU classes. I know some veterans from past wars have trouble adapting to life back home because they have nowhere to go. Our job is to make sure that those who come after us have what they need to succeed and UIU and the MVSC are great examples of how we can help our veterans.”
“War Poems: A Marine’s Tour 2003-2008” is available for purchase in stores and online. Persons may enter for a chance to win a copy of the book for a limited time by clicking here.
Pascale is currently working on his next novel, “My Friend Jeff: And Other True Stories,” which will feature a collection of true stories from his life. A tentative release date is schedule for June 2019.
(Editor’s note: Previous feature stories on the recent literary accomplishments of UIU Assistant Professor of History Meghan Mettler, Upper Iowa University Associate Professor of English Adrianne Finlay, then adjunct English Instructor and Writing Center Manager Katharine (Katie) Kress, alumnus Jeff Keenan, and alumna Peladija Woodson-Diers can be found by clicking on any tab at the top of The Bridge Online’s main page and then search the author’s name in the search box located in the upper right-hand corner.)