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As a Korean War combat veteran, re-enactment programs affect me emotionally. Would any soldier who fought in these wars, experiencing all the carnage, bloodshed and death, wish to re-enact the aftermath of those horrifying consequences?
I admire people wearing heavy clothing, carrying muskets, dragging cannons and dedicating time and personal finances to re-enact the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
They are community-minded people cherishing freedom and democracy, teaching children and adults that war isn't glorious or pleasant. Only understanding can bring peace in our world.
I remember one little boy at our Flag Day observance ask, "Why do we always have wars?" Your generation, I told him, with worldwide instant communication, will make the world peaceful through good fellowship and friendship. Children like you, our next generation, give us adults hope that the world will become more non-violent.
During the War of 1812, Buffalo was burned to the ground. Many people escaped to Pembroke and Batavia in Genesee County. There are a few structures left that were built before the War of 1812 where residents took refuge. In our town cemetery, there are gravestones going back before that war.
I am a lifelong resident of Pembroke. The Town Board worked hard to commemorate our 200-year bicentennial, which coincides with the War of 1812. The board wanted to honor all veterans and, as a member of the VFW Post 9000 in Corfu, I was happy to serve on the Bicentennial Committee.
The irony was I wanted to have a re-enactment of the War of 1812 to commemorate our bicentennial. Major battles were fought on the Niagara Frontier, but my thoughts turned to what it was like to have a war fought on our soil.
I thought of my father, a 1924 German immigrant who was a soldier in World War I on the German side. He was a prisoner of war in France. He escaped, but suffered frostbite while hiding from his captors in the bitter cold of winter. As a child, I never was aware of his disabilities. He was simply my loving father.
I was drafted in 1952 and completed infantry training. Before my deployment to Korea, I asked my father about his experiences as a POW. His answer was, "always hungry, always cold and humiliation." When I was in Korea, I was asked to welcome back prisoners of war. Many were handed over by the North Koreans on stretchers. How could anyone survive these ordeals? I could see in their eyes the terrible agony they endured.
The settlers in Buffalo forced from their homes during the War of 1812 also endured terrible hardships. Anyone with this experience would never want to relive these episodes in their lives.
Pembroke had a great bicentennial birthday party with music, singing, a chicken barbecue, entertainment, a huge birthday cake and an 1812 war re-enactment.
This event gained everybody's attention as to how important history is. Hopefully, future generations watching these re-enactments will gain understanding that, especially with weapons of mass destruction, war must be avoided at all costs.
I am glad I had the opportunity to bring history into reality and focus on Pembroke. Re-enactors are doing great deeds to show history's realities. How quickly our knowledge of history fades from our thoughts.