Parts of Winged Deer Park’s Lakefront Festival Plaza resembled scenes from a historical war movie Saturday, as re-enactors set up camp during an event that honored veterans from practically every era.
Sponsored by the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Department, “Take a Walk in Their Boots –– A Military Adventure” featured local historical re-enactors dressed up in costumes and showed visitors just what it was like to be a soldier in their particular time period.
“We have people here today representing the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, (World War I), World War II and Vietnam,” re-enactor Paul Morrison Jr. said. “They’re just out here more or less to show people what kind of equipment that the veterans had to carry, how heavy it is, uncomfortable it is and to give people some kind of an idea about the sacrifices that veterans made on a day-to-day basis.”
Morrison, acting as a non-commissioned officer in charge of a Marine Corps World War II unit, a Joint Assault Signal Company, said the event was held to honor veterans and their service to the country.
“We’re trying to show people why ... they should be thankful ... to the veterans for all the sacrifices they did and a lot of time, (veterans) come out and they like to see the stuff that they carried and pick up a rifle that they used again. It brings back old memories for them and allows them to kind of reconnect with their glory days,” he said.
Serving in the Marine Corps from 1956 to 1960, Robert English was all smiles Saturday as he walked from one military era to the next.
“I’m a war history buff, so I just enjoy seeing the way things used to be, as far as the armed forces are concerned,” English said. “I’m interested in seeing some of the gear I would’ve carried and some of the uniforms I would’ve worn.”
He said he also remembers a time when Veterans Day was celebrated with parades and lots of people.
“I remember that Veterans Day was a really big deal. People turned out and would hug veterans and there were tears in people’s eyes ... but you don’t see that anymore,” English said.
Sporting his “Marines” hat, he said he decided to come out to the event to also show support to the Marine Corps on its 237th birthday.
“I was proud to be a marine and I’m proud of the military history of our country and, of course, I’m proud of every single man who served our nation under that proud flag of ours, and particularly proud of all the men who gave their lives, who can’t be here today,” he said. “I’m here to show my appreciation and my respect for all those men.”
Around the grounds, historically accurate clothing, equipment bags, food, games, newspapers, vehicles and weapons, among many other items, caught the eyes of many adults and children wandering by.
Ronald Webster was trying on a World War I pack and listened with his wife and four children as the re-enactor recited facts and trivia about the war.
“My son’s very interested in history and military and weapons and that kind of thing, so when we heard about this event being out here we decided as a family to come out and spend some time out here today,” he said.
Webster, an Army veteran having served from 1988-92 in Italy, said a lot of equipment and military items at the open exhibit was not all that new to him.
“A lot of this stuff is already familiar to me from being in the military, but it’s just interesting to be able to see how the different weapons and equipment and uniforms changed throughout the years,” he said.
“I’m very proud of my own military service and ... it’s important to me that my kids see it and learn about it. It’s just part of our heritage as a country.”