The park in Bushong was transformed by tents and bonfires, U.S. flags, military equipment and personas to match.
War re-enactors from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War shared passions for history, war stories and respect for the military.
“They get that experience of what this stuff is and what their grandfathers went through,” re-enactor and co-coordinator Steven Hood said.
Hood owns a WC Dodge three-quarter ton weapons carrier from World War II and was offering rides on it, as well as the opportunity to shoot blanks from the gas gun in the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle was originally made in 1944, and Hood believes the vehicle was too late for WWII and found itself in Korea. Hood said its history is indicated by a Japanese rebuild facility from 1958 on its dashboard.
“At the time (this vehicle was built), they had heavy-duty trucks for hauling a lot of cargo and then they had the Jeep,” Hood said. “They needed something in between.”
Hood is part of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. He enjoys taking the vehicle to various shows to have people interact with real equipment from the 1940s and 50s. Hood said he hopes these interactions “keeps in their mind that there was a World War II.”
Hood himself was an Army Guard Black Hawk pilot.
“For me, it’s all about the history and keeping that going,” co-coordinator Robert Cunningham said.
He said he hopes re-enactments will help encourage people that history should not repeat itself. Cunningham served in the Marine Corps and feels this is a positive way to still serve.
Cunningham’s WWII display showed historical relics like an original sewing kit, cots (which he and a few others slept on the night before), mess kit, field manual, phrase books and so on. He has been collecting items for almost 20 years.
Corporal Mike Scheller and Private Derrick Doty with the Kansas Eighth Infantry also camped out the night before for the “total immersion” experience. They both have military relatives, too.
Doty said this event was a valuable learning experience for him. He said if he experiences it, he can better teach others about touching a portion of history that is otherwise only experienced through reading a book.
“Maybe [people] can learn some of the difficulties and things that people had to go through back then,” Scheller said.
Historical performer Anna Smith brought to mind an additional difficulty soldiers sometimes faced — being a woman. Smith re-enacts a woman who dressed as her brother in order to fight in the Continental Army under George Washington against the English.
“Today I am here recruiting for General George Washington’s Continental Army, because we still need soldiers,” she said. “If you would be able to sign up with General George Washington’s Continental Army, we can sign up now.”
She recreated enlistment papers and told of the necessary items to bring — food, a blanket, a warm coat and a candle, to name a few.
Smith has been a performer since 2005 when one of her professors inspired her to join. Smith has 21 years of military experience under her belt, making performance one way to continue serving the military, she said.
The event also served as a platform for the Emporia State University Student Veterans Association. Its president, Mark Christiansen, is an Army veteran, and he and his wife Susie, along with other members of the organization, help raise funds for the organization.
The organization sold poetry books by veteran Justin Eggen and T-shirts. It looks to move its meeting/studying room and to make it more welcoming. The organization has also helped pay for medical bills of military dependents.
“We try to do whatever we can whenever we see somebody in need,” Susie said. Donations can be made online through the ESU website.
The event also included a chili lunch, a raffle for a grill and a memorial service. The event raised money for the North Lyon County All Veterans Memorial.