Friday, December 2, 2022

Poquoson Museum’s America Goes to War returns this year

The Poquoson Museum will host its annual America Goes to War event from May 1 through May 2. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the Poquoson Museum)

POQUOSON — Military history will come to life in Poquoson this weekend.

The Poquoson Museum, 968 Poquoson Avenue, will host its annual event, America Goes to War (AGW), a living history event which displays a chronology of military history from World War I through the Vietnam War. 

From May 1-2, guests will get to go back in time as reenactors, vehicles, weapons and other artifacts from the represented military eras will be on display. 

The event, which is free and open to the public, will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 1 and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 2. 

While the annual event was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Poquoson Museum began planning this year’s event back in the fall in hopes that they would be able to return for 2021. 

Jason Stechele is a reenactor with The Stray Devils, a British 1st Airborne Division battalion during World War II. He said that his unit was anxious to return to the program this year, even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“Most of us did Military Through the Ages back in March, so we took the lessons learned from that and we’re implementing them for America Goes to War,” he said.

Similarly to Jamestown Settlement’s Military Through the Ages, this outdoor event will have units and displays spread further apart this year to avoid people congregating and displays will be modified to allow for less handling of items. 

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

America Goes to War is a living history event that begins with World War I through the Vietnam War. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Poquoson Museum)

Hand sanitizing stations will be set up around the property and the reenactors will also sanitize their items each time guests interact with them. 

The Poquoson Museum, which reopened to the public on April 17, will require mask-wearing inside.

“They’re not going to be pushing people to come in and look at things,” Stechele said. “All of us want the visitors to be comfortable with the interactions.”

Every unit will have tabletop displays set up for guests to look at from a safe distance. 

Stechele said that this year, his British unit will be using QR codes for visitors to scan for more of the commonly asked items in their displays. 

America Goes to War began as part of the Virginia Commemoration of the Centennial of World War I and the 75th Anniversary Commemoration of World War II. In 2019, the museum expanded the event to include representation of the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

This year, the Korean War units will not be present, as the reenactors are unable to make the event. 

Both sides and conflicts of each war will be portrayed at the event, Stechele said. 

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

Bryan Denny is a reenactor with the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon out of the 41st Armored Infantry. With a passion for teaching about what it was like to be a soldier in World War II, he said that he is overjoyed to be back this year.

The classroom doesn’t quite do it for some folks, some people need more hands-on experience,” he said. “Living history allows us to reach a fairly large amount of people.”

Each military unit will have displays set up for the guests to interact with and learn from in a socially distanced way. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the Poquoson Museum)

Denny’s unit will be wired off with roping, but will allow guests to come in and look at their displays if they so choose.  

They will have World War II-era Jeeps on display, as well as other items that an infantry squad would have had at their disposal.

“I think sometimes people think these are just wars, these are just names,” Denny said. “But they’re fought by living, breathing, and often drying soldiers, and it’s important to know who these people were, what motivated them, why they fought.”

There will be small, mock battles for guests to view both days, as well as a lecture from retired Lt. Col. Al Crane on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., called “Vietnam-Perspectives from Saigon and the Pentagon.”

Various vendors will be in attendance and antique cars will be brought to the event by various car clubs. 

Live music from the ‘60s and ‘70s music will be performed by local band Superstition to close out Saturday’s event. 

More information about the event can be found online

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