The Fog of War: Combat Paper and Warrior Writers



they call it the fog of war you know it's overwhelming experience that's not processed when you're there this is called please try something different it's not like it used to be not like it used to be he said come on suck it up they said as time you just moved on she said wherever you go there you are and all I heard was nagging voice is barking orders missile raids in my head I mean it's not like it used to be you see me here but I am so far gone you see me here but I am so far gone he said you can make a career out of this they said thank you for your service but they never ever listen she said you have PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder but can you please try see and death and then have nothing go wrong because you people triggered a social disease because you don't hear after we come home not like it used to be she said you have PTSD post terror soul disorder passively timid sometimes dangerous pathetically trying slowly dying potentially terminal spiritual disease so I think for those veterans who do it there's something very powerful about putting it out there maybe we just didn't understand what we were getting ourselves into driven by the desire to serve some greater good or follow in the footsteps of our fathers it's one for the person that makes it and then art to me is not complete unless there's an audience it requires what we call what I think about is a witness somebody that witnesses that experienced warrior writers all veterans read at the 2014 dodge poetry festival it was part of a special program called another kind of in the lobby people bought books and looked at artwork made by veterans and combat paper workshops warrior writers and combat paper work together loosely you're made out of military uniforms it's possible because both groups are there to help veterans tell their stories a lot of a combat paper workshops include a writing element based on warrior writers free writing style it really is an immediate way to get thoughts and feelings and expression out from your head I just want to say not these guys amazing right warrior writers beginning manned up for the warrior riders and honor to read her and I am one Brian Turner is a well-known war poet and writer the New York Times called his 2014 memoir stunning there are many projects that I've come across over the years including things like combat paper project warrior writers operation homecoming which is connected to National Endowment for the Arts all of them in a sense create a way for regardless if you're professional or way my concern amateur or new to a whole entire art form it creates a space for the larger human being to exist and to experiment and to explore with and for those you know not it's not everybody's cup of tea they're not all going to go to that but those who give it a try I found oftentimes our surprise not only by what the art form can do but actually in a more profound way what their own souls are capable of and what their own imaginations are capable of combat paper NJ works with vets all over at VA hospitals and to colleges like Stockton named one of the best for vets by military times combat paper is a process of cutting up uniforms recycling them into paper and then making artwork with it in workshops director David Keith guides bets many of them first time artists through the same process he went through but I was going through a really tough time like I said four years after I came back from Iraq and I had to do something so i sat down with my partner in crime whose micro coordinator right now his name is Eli right he couldn't make it here tonight and he taught me how to do this and I cut into my uniform and it changed my life so combat paper New Jersey was born in 2011 we brought it all over the state of New Jersey and now we're here stuck in college but these were these uniforms really mean a lot to us as veterans was deployed to Iraq like southern Iraq from 2009 to 2010 and then I was deployed to eastern Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 I mean I can look back on and say that you know I did it it was something i did so i guess the larger question is how do we welcome back a generation of lawyers and the there's there's some traditions that when the warriors come back from war they have to stop short of the village the villagers go out to meet them and they unclothed them and they wash them to symbolically wash the blood from their bodies and their experiences and I think there's something very healthy in that process for both sides because that as it is now for the most part veterans come home or military members come home and then they when they as a get our uniform they basically sort of blend it back into their communities without the community having to also go out to reach them says the worst part is feeling numb to it but it was the only way that I could survive with my sanity coming home from war can mean PTSD but it almost always means dealing with moral injury it's a concept developed by psychiatrist Jonathan Shea after working at VA hospitals and after a deep reading of Homer's great war stories The Iliad and the Odyssey what is moral in dreaming it means when you perpetrate some acts that are against your sense of ethics or your ideals so we send our you know or I call the children or you know to war and they have good intentions they're there to help you know they believe in the cause in some way and then because of the leadership or because of the collateral damage or war they wind up having to commit acts that they feel inhuman about killing inadvertently a woman or a child so there's all these acts during the wartime that go against their sense of right wrong and they come home and they've been forever changed by this experience I've been able to see and I think the community of veterans have been able to see that this this process that we're working on is it's something much larger you know our therapy is just one part of it you know it's therapy it's craft making its community building its storytelling it's all a whole array of things but the larger picture is we're really trying to you know engage the public really trying to bridge that gap between the veteran and the civilian so that the civilian or non-veteran can understand the complexity of the veteran experience every week combat paper NJ holds an open workshop at the printmaking center of New Jersey open to all vets in 1970 I came out of Marine Corps I went to the University of New Mexico I felt like I was the only Vietnam veteran in the whole world which of course is ridiculous you know back there was a time when there was a half a million of us in Vietnam there was a draft everybody knew people in the military but but I felt isolated until I started meeting veterans this generation of veterans even more isolated erect there's less of them there's no draft so there's no compelling fear on the part of the average american boy or the nowadays maybe the American girl as well of winding up in uniform it's easy not to care the regulars work side by side with newcomers sharing our stories from Vietnam Afghanistan and Iraq Sarah mess was in Somalia as a surgical tech but was drawn into combat because there were so few boots on the ground I call this the best of what's around because it represents what I use to sort of sustain myself the green represents Vietnam veterans because they were all that I had to come home to the closest that i have come to coming home has been in this community combat paper and warrior writers of their programs that stand in the way of isolation avoidance depression suicidal ideation their life lines and they saved my life and the music of the Dave Matthews Band saved my life it seems your eyes trouble captain Shane here time or just say the combat paper MJ is veteran run its run for vets 5s and there's there's something beautiful about that really it was about bearing witness to what we could do and then deciding to make it a permanent part of what we do at the perfect in seven coming home from the fog of war coping with moral injuries combat paper and warrior writers are asking veterans to tell their stories our eyes were sewn open unable to look away from horror stories unfolding in front of us we came home in complete with no words to describe how our hearts are now beating us black and blue for some of the things we had to see and do and they're asking us to listen yes it's very important for us to change that culture of non storytelling to allow the veterans a chance to tell their stories give them the voice amplify their voices and put it together into something that speaks raw and from the heart and that's art making and even though they said our war was over sure don't seem that way hopefully one of these days will finally make it back home thank you you you

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