‘Combat Paper’ Helps Vets Beat War Memories to a Pulp

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* By Matt Pearce Columbia Missourian *

Artist and Iraq war veteran Drew Cameron, 28, explains the pulping process to an audience Friday night at the Orr Street Studios. The cloth from one military uniform can make up to 350 sheets of 8-by-11-inch paper. Photo: Matt Pearce

COLUMBIA — For war veterans, the struggle to return to normalcy is as old as ancient Greece, and remains as relevant as ever. Greek playwright Sophocles once wrote about a “divine madness” that had infected the mind of Ajax, a legendary warrior who found himself helpless to cope with life after war, and whose life ended with tragedy.

Today? That “divine madness” is called post-traumatic stress disorder. Ajax’s self-destructiveness is recycled in the lives of U.S. veterans, who face increased rates of homelessness and violence as a group.

Sophocles, a veteran himself, attacked the problem through art as a way to bring catharsis; now, two artists are hoping to do the same in Columbia.

At Orr Street Studios on Friday night, Vermont artists Drew Cameron and Drew Matott held a fundraiser to promote an unorthodox project called “Combat Paper,” designed to help veterans cope with the memories of war by cutting up old uniforms and turning the shreds into paper. They are hoping to raise enough money — $3,000 — to hold a week-long workshop with Columbia veterans in September.

One table at the presentation was mounded with a mass of buttons and a gnarled pile of shredded camouflage, which sat next to a portable pulper. Once pulped, shaped and dried, Matott said one uniform can make up to 350 sheets of 8-by-11 paper. The paper created from uniforms is varying shades of green, embedded with little flecks and strands of unpulped fiber. It feels tough, like extra-rugged construction paper.

Read more at Columbia Missourian

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