Photograph courtesy of The American Legion National Headquarters

Photograph courtesy of The American Legion National Headquarters

More than a dozen veterans gathered on Nov. 14 at American Legion Post 134 in Portland, Ore., to transform their military uniforms into art.

The veterans shredded their uniforms with scissors, turned them into pulp with a pulverizing machine, and created canvas-like paper to write or paint their war stories on.

“When I was literally tearing up my uniform and cutting it up into little pieces, something happened inside that felt so good just to decommission that uniform,” said Ray Facundo, a member of Post 134 and coordinator of student veteran services at Portland State University.

Post 134 and the Portland State University Veterans Resource Center sponsored the event to help veterans use their military uniform – which would otherwise be stored away in a box – to share their experiences. The veterans wrote war poems and stories about their military experience on the paper, and painted favorite memories from their time in service. One of the most touching experiences Malachi Muncy, a veteran and facilitator of the event, witnessed from the process was watching an Air Force veteran shred his uniform and a T-shirt of his son’s, turn it into paper, and then print images of the two of them together upon his return from service in Iraq.

“The symbolic act of shredding a uniform and putting it into something a person can use today is freeing,” said veteran Malcom Chaddock. “It takes a lot of baggage and lets a person deal with it in a way that’s concrete. You take it and you shred it with your hands, with your scissors, and you create something new out of it. I think that’s a really therapeutic thing.”

Post 134 Commander Sean Davis said the event was “a healing process; art heals the soul. There is a lot of stuff that we have gone through as combat veterans, but this helps us out a lot. Seeing these veterans do this was incredible.”