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Wounded Warriors graduate from Photography Course

By Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | June 4, 2015


Fifteen Marines from the Wounded Warrior Battalion graduated from the F-Stop Warrior Project, a 12-week photography course funded by the Tug McGraw Foundation, during a ceremony held at the Hope and Care Center here, June 3.

Brig. Gen. Edward D. Banta, Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations-West, and Maj. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, congratulated the students after they were awarded certificates for completing the course.

F-Stop finished its sixth session and provided injured Marines with a chance to study the Brooks Photography curriculum with professional photographer Terrence Ford.

“Photography functions as a healing tool as it allows them to engage the community and their families,” said Jennifer Brusstar, co-founder and CEO of Tug McGraw Foundation. “The camera provides an avenue for the Marine to go out and shoot photographs within the community. It creates a different method of communication for them, giving them confidence. “

Makaafi, a former infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, says he used the course as a way to look forward as he recovers from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I took a photograph of my son and soon to be wife because it’s what I see as my future,” said William Makaafi, a student at the course. “I’m able to communicate with people without using words by taking pictures like this without using words and it feels awesome. If I’m going through a dark stage in my life, instead of speaking about it, I can take a photograph and express myself.

The Marines start with simple projects and progress to more complex ones that allow them to express and communicate themselves, such as a self-portrait without obstructions and a photograph with a stranger in town.

“The class is about reintegration. It’s an opportunity for them to experience a semi-civilian class while waiting for their medical discharge,” said Ford, instructor for the program. “There are several times where we challenge them to be introspective, the first assignment requires them to take pictures of themselves or things that represent who they are.”

The Wounded Warrior Battalion has its own classroom and photography laboratory, open 24 hours a day.

“The course and civilian instructors offer the Marines a different viewpoint in life,” said Brusstar. “It’s amazing how many of the Marines came back with such powerful photos. I think they really dug deep into themselves to get those shots.”

The Tug McGraw foundation creates programs and provides funding for quality of life programs and programs for brain-related trauma and tumors as well as those with post-traumatic stress disorder. The next F-Stop session begins June 27.