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Published: Tuesday, May 21 2013 5:05 p.m. MDT

After coming home, Baca missed the sense of purpose that accompanied service.

With the help of The Mission Continues, Baca decided use his talents in dance to help others learn to express their experiences in a non-verbal way.

The Mission Continues offered Baca a six-month fellowship to take his dance workshops to local New York City public schools. Baca also had the goal to provide the same workshops to veterans and even villagers in Iraq.

Baca started his fellowship in December. By January, he was doing seminars for students in New York City public schools. In April, he was teaching dance to children in the Iraqi village of Erbil. And in June, Baca visited veterans in Kentucky.

“The fellowship was an amazing propeller into this experience. (It) was unmatched. I got (to) impact not only my own community, but the community in Iraq where I had served.”

Today, in addition to working with The Mission Continues, Baca is the co-founder of Exit12 Dance Company in New York. The company creates and performs contemporary dances that explore and educate the audience about the realities of war and conflict.

It was the challenge to contribute and not a coddling hand that helped the most, Baca said.

“When they step up and sign on the dotted line that they are going to serve our country, they are already accepting a challenge," Baca said. "When they come home, a lot of them are still young and can contribute. To come home and be coddled, … it’s nice, but it creates a charity mentality — that we’ve done all we can do.

“To be told that they can come and still contribute, that’s huge. It was huge to me. I signed up to be a Marine because I wanted to help people. To be able to contribute, to do that, was very important to me."

Learn more about The Mission Continues.

Katie Harmer is a journalism graduate of Brigham Young University and writes for Mormon Times. Email: kharmer@deseretnews.com Twitter: harmerk

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