Female veterans create memoir out of military uniform fabric


They've been to Iraq, Afghanistan and the middle of the ocean.

Now, these United States Military uniforms are being cut to pieces by some of the very veterans who wore them.

"For the marjority of us? What do we do with it? Nothing. It gets put in a box. Why not continue to let it live on?" US Air Force veteran Jo Ann Martinez said.

From the shreds of these hundreds of donated uniforms, come buckets and buckets of pulp, that's pressed one painstaking sheet at a time, into reams and reams of paper. And on it, are the stories of women veterans put in a book called "Paper Dolls."

"This is my, um, uniform from the day that I activated on September 11," US Army veteran Dottie Guy said.

Every story is about the uniform. Each comes with an illustrated page made from that uniform and each illustration is made to be cut out and put on a paper doll.

"Put on my battle dress uniform, BDUs, and immediately it felt like I transformed from being a 19-year-old kid to being a soldier," Guy said.

"The patch is very large, and I am not very tall," US Army veteran Starlyn Lara said.

Every letter is set by hand by the very women who wrote the stories, using printing techniques from centuries past.

"I didn't want to tell their story. I wanted them to tell their story," book editor Pam DeLuco said.

DeLuco said she wanted to fill a gap.

"Even in literature, uh, there was really no characters, no female characters in the military. So, there just wasn't that much information out there about what their experience was like," DeLuco said.

An experience in what can be a man's world. One veteran said she took to wearing a male uniform.

"I preferred the male uniform to mask my shape, in a sense, deterring unwanted sexual advances," one veteran said.

Another still carries her purse differently, even 10 years later.

"I keep my purse over my left shoulder to keep my right hand free for a salute," Martinez said.

And though, their stories are as different as the colors and styles they can now cut out and place on the paper doll at the front of the book, the service they've done for their country unites them, like the fibers of their uniforms all mixed together.

"Now, through paper we are bound. And I just think that that is beautiful," Lara said.

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