KANSAS CITY, MO. — A simple strand of thread connects an honorable past to a bright future.
Connie Swartz, of Kansas City, Missouri, recently founded Celebrate Fatigues to turn unused military uniforms – hidden in basements and closets – into usable products to pay tribute to the nation's veterans and active service members.
"My idea was, 'Let's resurrect these and make things out of them that people can enjoy and also feel that they're showing honor in remembering to the people who wore them,'" Swartz said.
From sleeves and pants come purses and backpacks, dog scarfs and scrunchies – even face masks and luggage tags.
Some of the first uniforms on her assembly line came from her husband, 1st Lt. Barry Morris, who served in the Army Security Agency in Turkey during the Vietnam War era.
Morris said he's glad his uniforms are not sitting in boxes anymore.
"At least I know that someone is able to use it and somewhere along the line someone is giving recognition to the service that not only I, but many people who served in the Armed Forces, gave," Morris said.
Armed with scissors and seam rippers, some veterans at Kansas City's St. Michael's Veterans Center volunteered to deconstruct the first batch of uniforms and prepare them for their next line of duty.
The Sewing Labs, a Kansas City, Missouri, nonprofit, is having its students sew the new uniform products. Swartz said she believes customers are the final layer in her new tapestry that aims to spread military pride throughout the U.S.
"It's a unified force in our country," she said. "We don't have many of those right now, and this, to me, is a unified force that everybody can put their fingers and hands on."
For more information on donating military uniforms, making a cash donation to the project or to purchase products, visit CelebrateFatigues.org.