Military Reenactors: History & Respect

By | March 26, 2020

[March 26, 2020]  It has been said that among the most important lessons of history is that we do not learn very much from the lessons of history.  On July 3, 1990, I was standing at the Copse of Trees on the Gettysburg Historical Battlefield with several U.S. Army officers.  We were part of a Staff Ride to learn more about what went on that faithful day, more than 125 years prior.  From behind me rode a tall man, dressed as a Union Calvary Officer, one of many military reenactors I saw that day.

A few days ago, I received my April 2020 VFW Magazine.  Ttoday, the April edition is not yet available online at  One article sparked my imagination and remembrances that day in Gettysburg for me three decades ago.  Titled “The Real Deal,” author David Sears helps paint a picture of military reenactors helping us understand our past.

“VFW members who participate in battle reenactments give the events valuable realism, say the organizers [of special military events].  While the veterans’ portrayals offer visitors a more authentic look at history, it also provides the vets a new perspective on their own war experiences.” – VFW Magazine, April 2020, page 14

Many of the veterans who participate in a variety of organizations that reenact battles, do so as a better way to understand their own war experiences.  Some veterans have trouble transitioning between being in combat to civilian life.  Others just love the excitement of dressing in a uniform from the past and being around others who share a common bond.  What they all have in common is a desire to be a “living historian.”

Most common are reenactors from the U.S. Civil War and World War II.  Perhaps they participate because of the importance of these wars.  Or maybe they like to be part of the great struggles of generations past.  The fact that each military conflict is different, many things remain the same throughout the history of warfare.  Those similarities give perspective and comfort.

“We bring history alive and close up.” – Ron Bingham, U.S. Cavalry enthusiast

When military veterans are part of a reenactor group, it gives the reenactment authenticity.  Those participating can show how a soldier, sailor, or Marine of that era really spoke; military terminology, buzzwords, slang, and cusswords, of course.  Equipment and uniforms attract many, but it’s the knowledge of the events reenacted that truly sets these men and women apart from the classroom.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “Military Reenactors: History & Respect

  1. Kenny Foster

    Thank you Gen. Satterfield for this entertaining article on reenactors. They have always been a staple of kids growing up and learning about our honorable past.

    1. Ruth M. McMasters

      Good point Kenny. These re-enactors are a staple for learning about history and the lessons we can take away from it.

  2. Terri Issa

    Visiting the battlefield at Gettysburg is a somber experience. I’ve been there probably about ten times and still feel its eerie affect. I was fortunate enough to be at the 150th anniversary of the battle. Twice I’ve had park guides. The last time I was there I was lucky to be accompanied by Terry Hegglin, a retired Army officer and an expert on Civil War history, but in particular Gettysburg. It’s a place every American should try to visit and understand the full importance of the events that took place there.

    1. Terry

      Hi Tderri. Saw your post about visits to the Gburg battlefield. Thanks for the compliment. I enjoyed our visit & your interest in the campaign. Always enjoyable to share history with other interested people like you. Terry

  3. Nick Lighthouse

    Off topic but I had to write about it. “Kathy Griffin slams Trump’s coronavirus response while in hospital with ‘unbearably painful’ symptoms”. Typical hyper leftist (ie anti-American) who now blames Pres. Trump for her getting the virus. Recall she is the one that advocated for killing the President. She should have had to spend time in jail for it.

  4. Jerome Smith

    This article harks back to my time as a teenager when I was asked to participate in a big re-enactment in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. Big event. Bigger than anything that had happened in that town, from my memories of 30 years ago. I enjoyed the heck out of the experience. I would have continued but had to go to college. But I will fondly remember those times and what I learned.

  5. William DeSanto

    Hi everyone, I’m new to this leadership website and to the comment forum as well. I hope that I can make a contribution. I’m from San Francisco and experiencing the wrath of this pandemic too.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Yes, also a warm welcome from the rest of our motley crew of thinking leaders. Please continue to comment. When new ideas are out here we can discuss them and work to improve all our thinking and logic. It has been worthwhile to me, I know. I hope you enjoy your time here at General Satterfield’s blog.

  6. Wilson Cox

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article this morning that I read while eating breakfast (very early). This is what I do now that I’m laid off from work due to the Coronavirus. I don’t get out as much as I would like and the upside is that I can read more and try to engage my brain a little. Instead of working all the time now, I can actually think. Several avenues have availed themselves like great videos about how to be a “real man” and survival skills. Good thinking is always better than lazy working. ?

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      I’m glad you are having a worthy time while unemployed. I too am trying to improve my leadership skills. Most of them are getting a workout.

  7. Dale Paul Fox

    The VFW article is titled “The Real Deal: War vets bring realism to battle re-enactments.” I recommend it. Just pulled out my latest VFW mag and read the article.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Dale, there is another article that I also enjoyed “War … Gave me a Voice” It’s about poetry and how the men and women of our military wrote home with a special voice, very creative.

      1. Dale Paul Fox

        Hi Otto, yes, I read it. Very good magazine by the way and if those who are here don’t get it, I recommend joining the VFW if you meet their requirements.

      2. KenFBrown

        Or join the American Legion. They have recently changed their requirements thanks to Pres Trump. You now only have to be a veteran of any era.

    2. Santa Fe Mae

      Thank you Dale for telling us about another article. I’m not a military vet but when the article hits the Internet, I’ll read it.

  8. Willie Shrumburger

    Very interesting. I’ve heard a lot about these folks (usually men for some unknown reason to me). I’m glad they are out and about giving us lessons on ‘living’ history.

    1. Eric Coda

      As a kid, every year there was a reenactment with”civil war” soldiers near where I lived. I enjoyed walking around their encampment and talking to the men and women who were there. I was fascinated by their uniforms and weapons. That is where I learned about how medicine had not advanced that much.

    2. Janna Faulkner

      I did get a chance to talk with some of the women who participated and most of them were either wives of the soldiers (and living under those same conditions in tents in hot, humid weather) or nurses working in simulated operating rooms (actually tents too). I enjoyed my time with them and learned a lot.


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