Vietnam Given Some Respect

I went to a reenactment/living history in Nokesville, Va. This hamlet past Manassas qualifies as nowhere. I was joined by several thousand others. (Maybe they were lost.) It was a surprise to see this remote piece of land as a home to countless military vehicles spanning the past 60 years. Joining the hardware were a few hundred reenactors from many eras.

The field is called Tank Farm (literally) of the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles. The event’s goal was to promote the museum and its vehicle collection. The period players rounded out the event.

The hit of the weekend was a band of Vietnam reenactors, who made the Vietnam War hip, possibly for the first time.

The reenactors represented many periods, though modern conflicts seem to be popular. There were those reenacting Russians (some real Ruskies) in Afghanistan, and Americans in Desert Storm. There were World War II Germans complete with German Shepherd. I believe Eva was her name.

The Vietnam unit was courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps Living History Unit. They are independent of the Corps. (It’s probably better that way.) These are mostly former and retired Marines that portray the Marine Corps from – get this—the early 19th century to the present. They verified this habit can be time-consuming and expensive.

Compared to classic Vietnam photos, these guys seemed to have it down. Some looked every bit the hungry jungle fighter. Think Jim “Women Can’t Fight” Webb in his youthful, shirtless splendor. Some members are actual veterans of Vietnam, making the mix all the more interesting.


I’m told evenings were spent hanging with the Vietnam boys. Brethren from all eras and nations were popping PBRs (Pabst Blue Ribbons) and dragging on water pipes, all courtesy of our Vietnam heroes. These guys even had beads and peace signs.

As I have written before, I do not understand the allure of reenacting. Some say they do it for camaraderie. Others say living history. My guess is it is a low-tech and satisfying way to connect to people. (It is certainly not the sleeping accommodations.)

Our Marine reenactors appeared passionate, if not obsessed. Get this: Their fire base even had a working sandbag-encircled mortar pit complete with black “pajama-wearin’” Vietnamese workers. A few open Hawaiian shirts and shared hookah pipes went a long way in making this much-vilified period in our history hip, even if just for a weekend.


Photos courtesy of Rudy Schulz

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