Mason organizations honor Veterans Day with helmet painting project

Painting the inside of the helmets, according to Sargent, will help bring veterans and civilians together (photo by Amy Rose).
Painting the inside of the helmets, according to Sargent, will help bring veterans and civilians together (photo by Amy Rose).


In honor of Veterans Day, graduate student Patrick Sargent pushed for an event to both commemorate the sacrifices of the American military and brought the Mason community together.

The Office of Military Services held their first annual Veterans Day Helmet Painting Project from Nov. 1-8, 2013. Departments and organizations at Mason were invited to participate by painting a molded U.S. military-style helmet to be displayed on campus during Veterans Day.

The idea for this event was brought on by Sargent, a master's of fine arts student, who realized that some military members lacked a sense of connection when returning to their communities.

“I did some research and I found a lot of studies that talked about how people coming back from conflict have problems reintegrating back into their local communities,” Sargent said. 

In order to assist these student veterans in engaging with their community, the Office of Military Services decided to use art. Sargent was inspired by the groups Combat Paper Makers and Peace Paper, where they use paper making as a tool to join communities.

The Office of Military Services held a series of workshops with Arts, Military and Healing in Washington D.C. and the Veteran Paper Project. They were also able to bring Peace Paper to Mason.  

“We brought Peace Paper here and we worked with kids from elementary schools and we made paper and other imagery based on donated uniforms from the people here who are student veterans,” Sargent said.

Wanting to continue this movement, they created the Veterans Day Helmet Painting Project, an event open to Mason’s numerous departments and organizations.

“Combined with [Mason’s] remembrance wall, we made these paper helmets from clothes donated from community members from the local area,” Sargent said.

About 20 departments and organizations came to the Office of Military Services to decorate the inside of one of these paper helmets made in Mason’s School of Art.

“[The inside] is a useful place to do the decorations since a lot of guys, dating back to the history of wearing helmets, put pictures of their girlfriend, their wife or a letter from their family inside," Walter Sweeney, a junior arts and economics major said. "That’s where the ideas of the military service members are so what is a better place to put the ideas people have about veterans and military service than where they originate: inside their helmets?”

The contributing organizations were able to go into the Office of Military Services, not only to decorate a helmet to commemorate Veterans Day, but to also make connections with student veterans.

 “The goal is to basically take these disparities in our community and join them together," Sargent said. "They are coming into the Military Services office, they are interacting with student veterans, so they get an awareness of each other, and they can also share information about their student organizations with the people that traverse through here.”

The decorated helmets will be publicly displayed on Veterans Day, a very important day to the Office of Military Services.

“It’s an important day because it’s an opportunity for people in the greater community to take a second and to honor some of the things the veterans have done on behalf of their country and on behalf of their community and also a good time to take a minute and reflect on the continued service the veterans have after the military,” said Sweeney.

Events like the annual Veterans Day Helmet Paper Project help bring together student veterans and the community over a common cause: honoring veterans. While doing so, they are learning about each other’s organizations while strengthening the bonds and connections with the community that veterans long for.

Sweeney said, “Everybody joined to serve and just because your four years are over doesn’t mean your service is over. We all have that in us," Sweeney said. "We all want to serve something bigger than ourselves and veterans day is a good way to highlight that continued commitment to service that veterans have and is a good time to stop and look at some of the things the veterans are doing and the way the veterans are trying to give back to their community and to encourage the growth and prosperity of everything around them.”

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