RAWAH, Iraq --
When not providing medical care to service members in Iraq, Seaman Andrew Garrison, a corpsman with the Warlords of Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5, loves to spend his time living in the past.
Garrison, 21, from Grand Rapids, Mich., relaxes in his free time by preparing for and portraying United States service members of the past. Down to the battle-worn award medals draping his many replicated uniforms, Garrison speaks, eats, sleeps and lives history during reenactments of United States Military campaigns.
“I’ve done 30 reenactments all over the Midwest,” Garrison said. “We try to mimic the terrain (service members) fought on the best we can. We use period food and living conditions. We try to act like they would have.”
In May, 2004, Garrison participated in his first of many reenactments to come. By the final outcome of the battle, Garrison became quite partial to his historical hobby.
“I went to my first World War II reenactment and got interested from there,” Garrison said. “I wanted to be a part of history and the greatest generation. They endured the great depression and one of the hardest wars in history.”
As Garrison flipped through the pages of a book written by his great uncle, World War II veteran John Shirley, he became more enthused to carry on the military heritage of his ancestor through his reenactments.
“I spend a lot of time reading about World War II to portray (the service members) better,” he said. “I'm putting together an impression of my great uncle's uniform to honor him and his fellow infantryman of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.”
To portray these battles, serious reenactors invest a great deal of time and money to give the sideline spectators an extremely realistic show.
“Reenactors will spend hundreds of dollars on their kits,” said Maj. Chris
Ketcherside, assistant operations officer, Marine Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., who has done reenactments with Garrison. “It is essential to be historically accurate because reenacting is about creating an atmosphere, and it doesn’t take much to ruin it. Someone drinking a (sports drink) or someone calling on their cell phone yank you right back into the present and ruin that atmosphere.”
While Garrison learns more about his hobby and takes part in the events he can, he aspires to hold his own reenactments whenever possible and is on track to owning a much larger military paraphernalia collection.
“I'd like to have a tank and a 1940s Jeep someday,” Garrison said. “I'd like to get some land that I can hold my own reenactments on one day to continue preserving our history.”