VINCENNES, Ind. — Over the last nine years, Jim Osborne, curator and founder of the Indiana Military Museum, has watched the number or re-enactors drawn to the annual Salute to Veterans of World War II steadily grow.

This year, he said, more than 100 men and women have signed on, the largest group in the event’s history.

“Word is still spreading,” he said. “The more people hear about it, the more they want to know about the museum and the event itself. It’s a lot of word of mouth. People go back, tell others.

“And all of it is starting to add up.”

The 9th annual Salute to Veterans, an event honoring the heroes of WWII, will take place this weekend at the museum, located at 715 S. Sixth St. And with a possible record number of re-enactors on the way, Osborne has expanded the weekend’s lineup of activities.

“We’ve added a whole other battle to each day,” he said excitedly. “We’ll have the main battle at 1 p.m. both Saturday and again on Sunday, but we’re adding another skirmish, you might say, at 3 p.m. each day.

“And the reason for that is we’ve got a fairly large (unit) of Russians coming,” he said in jest.

Osborne is thrilled to welcome this year a new unit of Russian re-enactors living, primarily, in Illinois, he said. They’re bringing with them their own Russian Jeep and will make camp next to a Russian WWII tank museum volunteers are currently working to restore.

“They’ll be fighting the Germans during that 3 p.m. battle,” Osborne said. “And during the other battle the Americans and British will be fighting the Germans.

“Either way, the Germans are going to lose,” he said with a chuckle.

The Salute to Veterans will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Festivities include beloved favorites like WWII veteran Leighton Willhite’s tales of battles on Iowa Jima, scheduled for 11:45 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday, as well as a military fashion show at 11 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.

There will also be weapons demonstrations, a parade of war vehicles preceding each battle, and the Memory Lane swing band will perform at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday on the main stage.

Events also include a variety of wartime talks, including ones on Japanese culture and U.S. battalion medical aide stations, as well as a kids military drill and parade at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“And the weather report looks great,” Osborne said of the forecasted near 80-degree weather.

But of all the events, Osborne’s favorite part of Salute to Veterans has always been visiting with the WWII veterans themselves. But as the number of re-enactors swells each year, the number of veterans, unfortunately, declines.

“We had 30 that registered with us last year,” he said. “This year, we just don’t know. We won’t know until they show up.

“But this event is about them. We want them here. We want to hear from them. We’ll have a complimentary meal for them and a guest. And we’ll recognize each one on stage if they’re able.”

Osborne said visitors come each year not only to see the re-enactors and shop with their favorite vendors but also — and perhaps more so — to visit with the veterans as well. It’s a chance for the public to thank them, Osborne said, and for youngsters to shake the hand of a true hero.

“And maybe they’ll hear a story or two,” he said.

Osborne also expects several food vendors for this weekend, and volunteers continue to receive calls from artifact vendors wanting to book a space.

“We’ll have lots of those, too,” he said. “We’ll have book sellers, one guy that specializes in making World War II wooden toys, things like Jeeps, tanks, airplanes, that kind of stuff. So that portion of the event will be really interesting for visitors as well.”


Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://bit.ly/2bSdpJC


Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by the Vincennes Sun-Commercial