New Orleans Photojournalist and Editorial Photographer Edmund D. Fountain - The Wounded Among Us
Marine Cpl. Michael Jernigan, 34, of St. Petersburg was sworn in to the Marine Corps on Oct. 18, 2002, by his father. He was in the machine gun turret of a Humvee in Mahmoudiya, Iraq, when two 155mm artillery shells detonated, causing severe head injuries and the removal of both eyes. He is now a community outreach coordinator for Southeastern Guide Dogs.
'I joined the Marine Corps because I was kind of stagnant in life and I saw myself going down a road I didn't want to go down. I had a drinking problem.
"After I got wounded, it turned out the Marine Corps was not the place you want to go if you want to stop drinking. After I got wounded it was even worse. I thought that somebody was going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life.
"In a lot of ways going blind has improved my life. It opened up avenues to me that I had closed off in my mind. It gave me the desire to go back to college. It gave me a drive that I was missing. It gave me my wife. It gave me my family. If I wouldn't have been blind, Leslie wouldn't have walked up to me. (She) walked up to me in a bar to thank me for her freedom and we got married a year and a half later. Going blind has almost been a blessing in my life. The bomb pays dividends. It's crazy."