News: Guardsman brings history to life
Story by Sgt. Suzanne Carter
CAMP MABRY, Texas — Wildflowers waved in the gentle breeze as a convoy of World War II era military vehicles rumbled down the dusty road. Soldiers with American flag brassards rode atop the troop carriers and tanks, headed toward the battered farmhouse standing in a lonely field. Their mission, intercept the German Army as it retreated up the Rhone River Valley.
Shane Meyers, a private in the Living History Detachment, 36th Infantry Division, kept his eyes fixed ahead as he drove his troops onto the battlefield. When his halftrack vehicle rolled over an explosive charge, Meyers joined the assault against the Germans on the ground.
Meyers participated in the re-enactment of the Battle of Montelimar on a sunny Saturday afternoon during the Texas Military Forces Open House featuring the American Heroes Air Show, April 21-22, 2012, at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas.
As a sergeant in the Army National Guard, Meyers deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and Iraq in 2010. Meyers decided to get involved in bringing history to life upon returning from his last deployment.
"After I deployed to Iraq in 2010, one of the first things I did was go out and buy a full kit for World War II re-enacting," he said. "It is incredibly addicting."
The kit, which includes period uniforms and equipment, signaled just the beginning of Meyers' leap into reenacting. He has since branched into Civil War and Vietnam War re-enactments, investing thousands of dollars into the hobby that connects the past with the present.
"We do this because we love it," Jeff Hunt, Texas Military Forces Museum Director, said about the reenacting community. "I think it's important for the troops and for society to connect with the past so they can understand the realities of war, so they know what we're asking our troops to do when we send them in harms way."
The idea of Living History captured Meyers' attention between deployments after he spent six months working for the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.
"Shane was a natural at the museum," Hunt said. "He really took to it and showed great care in building the exhibits. "He brings a sense of delight, enthusiasm and wonderment at the discovery of connections to history. Then he turned around and uses that to become an educator."
With a bachelor's degree in history and future plans to study for a master's degree, Meyers takes every reenactment as an opportunity to deepen his understanding of military history and the evolution of equipment, tactics and standards.
"To come out and experience … the way they fought," Meyers said, "experience the armor and the tactics, it gives me a better appreciation for the knowledge I have of the history of World War II."
According to Hunt, re-enactment organizations strive for the most accurate and authentic representation of historic battles. Meyers uses his experience in the Guard to bring another level of expertise and attention to detail to the reenactments.
"It helps me out because when I see things that I know are wrong, that make my eyes twitch because I know they're wrong, I can just step forward and be like no, no, no, we have to do it this way," Meyers said. "Because you can only read so much in the history books."
On a recent trip to participate in a re-enactment of the Civil War Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, Meyers recalled how the mud and the rain lent the re-enactment an extra note of authenticity since the Confederate and Union armies fought in similar conditions.
Meyers said he hopes to continue investing in the re-enactment community to promote awareness among Americans, young and old, of the sacrifices service members have made throughout the country's history.
He said, "I hope they come away from the battle re-enactment with an increased appreciation for the troops that are in uniform today."