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Marine helps heal by bringing the battlefield to ballet

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 4, 2019 at 2:12 PM EDT
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Independence Day is one of our most patriotic holidays. And a former U.S. Marine is showing his love of country in a unique way. He's using dance to help veterans and military families heal after deployment.

Roman Baca turned his experience in combat into choreography.

"I used to be a Marine in the war and now I run a dance company," he said.

Baca started "Exit 12" after deploying to Iraq.

"The way we were operating... it contributed to a bit of anger, a bit of depression," he said.

Transitioning from the battlefield to ballet was a form of therapy.

"I know people who said I don't want to talk about my war experience... and I was like, through dance we don't have to do that," Baca said.

His repertoire reflects military experiences.

"We have a piece that talks about the interaction between the military individuals and the people on the ground," he said. "We have another piece talking about the impact of war on families."

That piece was created by dancer Taylor Gordon, whose brother died by suicide after two deployments to Afghanistan.

"Exit 12 is kind of my way of trying to navigate through dealing with those feelings," Gordon said.

Bruce Smith served during Vietnam and often performs with the company.

"This is part of healing those things I didn't even pay attention too," Smith said.

When Baca and his ensemble aren't on stage, they also hold movement workshops for vets and military families, like one they did for Gold Star Mothers.

"At first I was like, I can't do this, I can't do it, you know, it's going to be... sometimes you just have to do that," said Pam Stemple, a Gold Star Mother.

"I think Exit 12 is not only another way to serve my country but to serve the world," Baca said.

Through a healing tour of duty one dance step at a time.

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