COLORADO SPRINGS — Students at Pikes Peak Community College gathered around a table covered in camouflage scraps on Monday.
“It’s kind of a conversation piece,” said Kevin Basl, combat paper facilitator at Combat Paper.
Combat Paper uses old military uniforms from veterans and service members and repurposes it to tell another story.
“These military uniforms have remnants of veteran service; the literal dust. And all these… stories that come through the material object itself. We sometimes call them a trace object, it’s an object that’s charged with meaning,” Basl said.
The organization visited PPCC, giving students an opportunity to learn about veteran stories.
“I love the idea of people having an idea and being able to express their idea through the Combat Paper and to keep it forever as a different meaning than just having it be their uniform and having it mean something else as well,” said Matthew Sherman, a junior in high school.
Another student found the project interesting for a different reason.
“Well, I’m actually about to go into the Navy myself here, approaching this spring. So, it’s kind of interesting to look over and see all the uniforms and feel like that could be one of mine someday,” said Brad Wallerstein, a freshman at PPCC.
Event organizers say for veterans, this can be a therapeutic process and can help start difficult conversations.
“I didn’t talk about my service after I got out. I did two deployments to Iraq, one in 2005 and then again in 2007. And after that, I got out and I went back to college, and I just didn’t know how to share my experience with my fellow students. And I found myself shutting down, just trying to you know, box that part of my life off,” Basl said.
The paper is then used in teaching printmaking techniques and bookbinding techniques to create journals, giving veterans another way of sharing their story.
“The water is probably the weirdest part honestly. It feels like orange juice basically with pulp inside of it. But, it’s definitely cool seeing it starting to come together,” Wallerstein said.