Military Through the Ages at Jamestown Settlement looked a little different this year

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Military Through the Ages at Jamestown Settlement returned this year with a few changes. (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

JAMESTOWN — Centuries of military history came to life over just one weekend.

Jamestown Settlement’s Military Through the Ages (MTA) 2021 event ran from Saturday, March 20 through Sunday, March 21.

Guests took a socially distanced trip through time to learn about how armed forces evolved through the centuries.

Homer Lanier, the Interpretive Program and Events Manager for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, said that they have been planning this year’s MTA since last September.

The annual event, which has been running since 1984, was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to keep the safety of the event’s guests, volunteers, and the foundation’s staff in mind, MTA had to be modified this year.

The units were spread further apart in order to give guests, volunteers, and staff plenty of space for social distancing. Hand sanitizing stations were placed at every turn, and the museum had strict mask requirements for both indoor and outdoor exhibits. An event that usually includes hands-on activities, this year’s MTA was just as immersive, but in a different way.  

Hand sanitizing stations were set up all throughout the grounds (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

“So this year is a little different with COVID. We cannot pass artifacts around, we cannot pass helmets around, and things like that,” Lanier said. “So the challenge for our reenactors so that our families are still feeling like they’re getting a high-quality experience is to bring those things closer.” 

“They may be behind a rope barrier so no one touches anything, but they’re front and center where folks can see things,” he added.

Typically, Military Through the Ages includes around 500 reenactors, but this year there were approximately 350 on the property. The fewer units allowed for plenty of space to provide social distancing during the event. 

The event was spread out across the grounds with fewer units to maintain social distancing (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

With people itching to get some fresh air, visitors walked around the museum and its grounds. Most of the “living history” (or reenactment) for MTA took place outdoors. Guests were greeted by live Civil War era music from the Federal City Brass Band and reenactors depicting military units from different eras were strategically placed in mostly chronological order. 

This year, the timeline loop began with Charlemagne’s army and went all the way through to the modern Virginia National Guard.

“They’re the real secret to Military Through the Ages,” Lanier said. “Our reenactors, these are all volunteers. They come from all walks of life, all different kinds of jobs.”

“This is sort of their hobby, so they’ve spent years making their own clothing, making their own armory, acquiring the gear that they’re showing off,” he added.

Christopher Croft was one of the reenactors during this year’s MTA, representing the 7th regiment of the United States Marine Corps Fox Company during the Vietnam War.

“When you come into our camp you can pretty much feel the atmosphere of what it would have been like in 1969 in Vietnam,” Croft said. “You hear the music playing, see some personal items, see the sleeping quarters, get to see a lot of the weaponry that the Marines would have carried.” 

RELATED ARTICLE: A look back at this weekend’s Military Through the Ages event at Jamestown Settlement 

Being able to return to Military Through the Ages in 2021 after last year’s event was canceled meant a lot to Croft. 

“It’s wonderful that we can get back out and portray the men and women who have died for this country and through the ages,” Croft said. “It means a whole lot to be back out here and do this again.”

Volunteer reenactors depicted the different military forces throughout the centuries (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

One major change for this year was the lack of judged competitions that typically takes place during the event, Lanier said.

The foundation decided not to hold these competitions this year due to the inability for judges to be in close proximity in order to taste authentic food cooked by the units, to judge the camps and historical clothing, and for reenactors to perform the guest-favorite pass in review.  

The historical event typically takes place during the third weekend of March every year in order to kick off Jamestown Settlement’s spring event season. Despite all of the changes this year, guests and volunteers were just as eager to bring history to life, and Lanier is looking forward to being back to business as usual next year. 

“In 2022, we’re looking to be completely back up in full speed, with judged competition and probably about 40-45 units out here on the property teaching a lot of history from our nation and nations around the world,” Lanier said.

You can see WYDaily’s coverage of the Military Through the Ages in the video below:

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