by Paul Goldman and Francis Whittaker
"Because of their separation from the military culture, a lot of them are really isolated."
The site in Beit She'arim, Israel, run by American Veterans Archaeological Recovery program.Paul Goldman / NBC News
BEIT SHE'ARIM, Israel — Like many veterans, Nichol Fuentes has struggled with some aspects of life since leaving the Marines in 2013.
Fuentes, 38, a retired sergeant, suffered recurring ankle injuries while in Iraq and while stationed in Japan. She has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
But the New Jersey mother of three and wife of an active-duty Marine has been invigorated by an unexpected field: archaeology.
“It’s almost like therapy,” she told NBC News amid the dust and stones of an excavation site at Beit She’arim, a World Heritage site and national park in northern Israel. “It’s helped me a lot. It’s given me something to focus on and a purpose."
Fuentes said that a dig she recently took part in helped her recapture the sense of “camaraderie” she had lost since leaving the military.
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