One of the days we as reenactors should look forward to is Veteran's Day. This is the one day that actually defines who we are and what we do. We help people remember the people who were part of history who shouldn't be forgotten.
The thought for this post stemmed from a Veteran's Day parade that I marched in last weekend. Before I arrived, this was another gig - another chance to don the uniform for a good cause. Afterwards, my perspective changed a bit. Appreciation of the day changed into something deeper.
The parade was in a small town in the northwestern corner of NC - West Jefferson. In my youth, it was one of my stomping grounds; a place that wasn't my hometown, Boone. A casual observer might note that it has a rural naiveness. Being of the area, I know better. The area has given more than its share of blood in every conflict, and the purpose of America seems to be clearer in eyes of the people, than it is in more urban areas. Looking at the line of floats, Veteran's Day isn't just another day here. It's not an inconvenience. It's a day to appreciate, honor and remember.
What really got me to really thinking and remembering Veteran's Day were the floats with the WW2 vets and the empty one for the soldiers - veterans - of the Iraqi War. I imagined the WW2 vet's float being a bit fuller in years past, and wondered when the last WW1 vet's float was pulled through town. I even wondered if there was ever a float for the Spanish-American War vets, and when it eventually saw its last parade, or what the Vietnam War float will look like in ten or so years. Being nostalgic and sappy has its comfort. But the reality is much more harsh. We only see the survivors - the guys who made it through the conflict.
So, I come back to the role of reenactors. We are only representations of the soldiers who have passed on long ago. We only help people to visualize, remember and hopefully appreciate the history that our forebears lived in. As I marched in the parade, I realized that in order fulfill my purpose that day, there also must be a receptive audience who also appreciates the meaning of Veteran's Day. Hats off to the people of West Jefferson and Ashe County. They still know the duty of remembrance, something that is all too easily trod on or forgotten these days.
UPDATE: Check out Disappearing history about the eventual passing of our veterans. An intersting article to read along with this post.