"There's nothing like a man in a uniform," so the old adage goes. And this month, there's going to be a place to see plenty of them. Military re-enactor groups from all over Arizona are participating in a spirited Armed Forces Day Celebration at an original military site, Fort Verde State Park.
"A Blast From the Past — the History of the Soldier" is May 19 and 20. Park officials will play host to more than 100 military re-enactors representing two centuries of U.S. soldiers. If you've never seen this type of military presentation before, you're in for a big treat. It's a walk back in time as if you were there viewing the actual ranks firsthand. It begins with the Revolutionary War up to Viet Nam and beyond. This is a great opportunity for kids, teachers, students, adults and history buffs to take a peek into the lives of those who protected America's shores, both here and abroad. Enjoy staged events that include:
o An infantryman from the Revolutionary War
o US Captain Machesnays' Company depicting soldiers from the War of 1812
o The Arizona Civil War Council re-enacting Civil War soldiers
o A Sedona Civil War Living History member depicting Col. Joshua Chamberlin
o A Heliograph operator demonstrating signal transmissions from the 1870s
o Frontier Regulars from Prescott replicating life in 1884 at Fort Whipple
o 2nd U.S. Artillery Battery B out of Flagstaff playing Mexican War artillery men
o Arizona Rough Riders Troop A depicting Spanish American War soldiers
o A WWI infantryman
o A WWII unit re-enacting soldiers from the 1939-1945 period
o A Korean War soldier from the early 1950s
o A Viet Nam soldier from the 1960s
There will be plenty of civilians dressed in historical clothing also, said park ranger Talinda Roberts, adding that even Patrick Henry ("Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death") will make an appearance. Expect more last-minute additions to the military line-up too. As an additional treat, Luke Air Force Base will do a "flyover" on one of the days.
Fort Verde is located in Camp Verde, a small homey town centrally located off Interstate 17 and Arizona 260. The original military fort, circa 1870s, is the perfect spot for the drill teams, encampments and military enactors' performances with its huge grassy lawns and historic fort buildings and corrals.
Roberts encourages visitors to ask questions and get involved, as the enactors pride themselves in historical accuracy in their soldier portrayals. She said it's a wonderful "chance to experience time travel."
On Saturday, May 19, fort life starts early with reveille at 6 a.m. and colors at 9 a.m. There will be two drill calls; one at 10 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Drill recall takes place at 10:30 and 3 p.m. respectively. Experience the tension of a real-life court martial based on an original trial at Fort Verde beginning at 10:30. Colors and retreat is 5 p.m.
As a special honor Luke Air Force Base will perform a flyover on Saturday, May 19 in honor of the actual Armed Forces Day holiday. Expect the special diamond formation of the F16 fighter planes in the sky sometime around 2-3 p.m.
Consider bringing a sack lunch or stop by one of the many nearby restaurants as there will be no food vendors at the site. Don’t forget to bring your camera either s there will be many photo opportunities.
On Sunday, May 20, reveille again begins at 6 a.m. The Friends of Fort Verde will be serving breakfast for a small fee starting at 7:30 a.m. Colors are scheduled for 8 a.m. and morning inspection is 8:30 a.m. An 1870s church service starts at 9 a.m. with a special memorial service for the late Robert Bates, a well-known military re-enactor. Relax, sit back and enjoy the Excelsiors as they play a competitive ball game at 10 a.m. Roberts said the event winds down around noon on Sunday.
Military drill and presentations will occur throughout the weekend-long event, so come anytime. The fort grounds will be open to the public free of charge on both days. If you care to go through the main museum building, an interesting and historically significant Arizona fort structure, there is a $2 admission charge.
Fort Verde State Park is an original military site that was active from 1871 to 1891. It is open every day except Christmas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 567-3275.
If you go . . .
Who: "History of a Soldier"
What: A living history presentation 1700s to present
When: May 19 and 20, Armed Forces Day weekend
Where: Fort Verde State Park, 125 E. Hollamon St., Camp Verde, Take Exit 287off I-17; proceed to downtown Camp Verde
Why: In honor of Armed Forces Day
Cost: Free/$2 fee to go through museum