USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION
REFLECTIONS Veteran Ari Sonnenberg sits in for a self-portrait as part of his Veteran Photo Recovery Project portfolio.
RESEARCH Cardiology nurse practitioner Susan Quaglietti started the Veteran Photo Recovery Project to use photography to help heal PTSD.
Photography therapy allows people to think about a new way of expressing difficult emotions and thoughts.” SUSAN QUAGLIETTI
ARI SONNENBERG; HUMANIST FILMS
of service,” said Lai. The film follows four veterans — Mark Pinto, Homerina “Marina” Bond, Ari Sonnenberg and Priscilla “Peni” Bethel — as they share their haunting stories of war, trauma and the winding road to recovery. Other veterans play supporting roles, rounding out the cast of characters into one that veterans from nearly every era of war or military branch can identify with. Yet, the story doesn’t focus on the hopelessness of their personal demons, which can be generally categorized as PTSD, moral injury, depression and military sexual trauma. Instead, Lai shifts the story to Quaglietti and VPRP, highlighting her treatment and revealing how it can complement evidence-based treatments and give veterans a different way to reconnect with their self-worth and dignity. “There’s a stigma that there’s something weak about a veteran who is asking for help,” said Quaglietti. “If you were a soldier, you should be able to get your bootstraps on and just get over it. Move
on. We have to get over that stigma and that attitude.” On screen, raw emotion filters across each veteran’s face as they share their stories, their diagnoses, their triggers and what they feel they’ve lost while decked out in civilian clothing. The documentary also highlights how veterans use Quaglietti’s photography therapy program to express themselves and connect with one another. “One group really resonated with one another,” said Quaglietti. “Vietnam veterans and the Iraq-Afghanistan veterans — because they’re both dealing with combat and a long war — were communicating about similar issues during the workshop. Even though it was different wartime periods, they were able to discuss their experiences and specifically what PTSD meant to them in a visual way.” Lai said that being entrusted with the stories of these incredible veterans was inspiring and that veterans who have attended the CO N T I N U E D