A Marine Combat Engineer, Joel joined the 7th Day Adventist Church in 2002. Although willing to go to Iraq, he refused to carry a gun, saying it was against his religious beliefs. He was court-martialed in December 2004, sentenced to seven months in the brig, and reduced in rank to Private. In February 2006, the U.S. Naval Clemency and Parole Board upgraded his discharge to a “general” classification.