By C.L. Sill
I’m trying something new here, bear with me.
We’re going to be mixing up our content here at Man The Line with the help of several guest writers. Along with that I thought I’d end every month with a short column of my own highlighting some hopefully unique perspectives on reenacting, historical research and the good life in general.
When I started thinking about this column I began to piece together my own personal history in WWII reenacting. Going back over all the moments I’d enjoyed and all the moments I’d loathed. All the events I’d forgotten about that seemed so important years ago.
I thought about the person I was when I began, how I’ve grown within the hobby. My impressions are certainly light years beyond what they were 10 years ago. But the hobby has changed far more than just the shade of O.D. I deem acceptable. I’ve grown so much because of the hobby.
The first time I ever met reenactors was outside a storage shed in West Omaha. An early fall evening, it wasn’t cold but I was shivering. I was wildly nervous and trying my best to tamp out the white-hot embers of my excitement, so as not to look overzealous.
They told me to meet them there for their monthly “truck night.” It was your run of the mill ‘get away from the wife’ guys night. They were building a WC-37 or a deuce; I don’t remember which (It’s still not done).
I was just old enough to drive but dad came with, fearing these guys might be the right-wing militia type. They weren’t.
Nice as could be, they politely suggested I get a replacement for my Navy issue 41 jacket. We BS’d for an hour and drove home. I didn’t realize it at the time of course, but that meeting very much changed my life.
Had I not reached out to them in an email or decided not to go to truck night, my youthful love for WWII could’ve fizzled out and morphed into something normal like girls or cars.
But alas it didn’t, and I spent the next several years learning the ropes of WWII reenacting with the 2nd Infantry Division. I’ve long since moved on to other groups and impressions, but the kindness and generosity I received from those friends made more than a lasting impact. My life would be vastly different without them.
I’ve met hundreds of people from all over the country and the world. My closest friend started out as a “reenacting buddy.” A year ago I left my family in Nebraska and headed north to Minnesota to live with him. I’ve spent months living in hotels and abandoned college dorms working on films, where I made more wonderful friends. All of this is because of reenacting.
The impact this hobby has made on my life has been immeasurable.
I look back on all this now and think of other young kids who might be thinking about entering the world of this weird, wonderful, mesmerizing hobby. With all its ups and downs, all its politics and bullshit. I can give them one piece of advice.
Give it a shot. Go to “truck night.” It might be worth more than you think.