By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
As a preface to Medal of Honor Host City events later in April, a local military historian group conducted a patriotic-themed fundraiser Saturday in support of a large-scale war reenactment set for 2014.
Members of the Camp Howze unit of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) parked war-issue Jeeps and carriers on California Street — providing a vintage display outside State Theater while a ceremony began inside.
“It’s for the history of it, as much as anything,” said MVPA member David Hart. “We do that for the young people as well as the vets.”
The afternoon included a silent auction, live music and a special presentation of “Saints and Soldiers,” a 2003 war drama. Organizers of the annual Medal of Honor Host City Program were also available to provide a preview of 2013 activities.
All proceeds from the afternoon will help fund what may be the first elaborate World War II reenactment in Gainesville. In late September 2014, Camp Howze MVPA members are set to reenact the Battle of Crucifix Hill, a famed World War II skirmish in Germany during late 1944.
MVPA member Bradley Meeks said City of Gainesville officials have already agreed to lend the free use of Camp Howze property near Gainesville Municipal Airport as part of what has been titled “Living History Weekend.”
“The city’s already set aside a piece of Camp Howze,” Meeks said. “And many of the reenactors, just as soon as the word gets out, they come from all over, and not just in Texas; some come from as far as Ohio.”
On March 27, Camp Howze MVPA member Chad Bayer said the two-day battle reenactment may run as high as $10,000 — the cost of helping feed and house dozens of reenactors incoming from across the nation.
“We’re hoping to get 125 reenactors and at least 150 in the audience,” he said.
The organization’s artillery, blank ammunition and uniforms are already privately owned by participants, but “Living History” organizers are hoping to include the use of donated tanks and military aircraft. On Saturday, Meeks said Fort Worth’s Greatest Generation Aircraft foundation has already committed the use of a B-25 bomber and a C-47 transport plane. Meeks added that members of the Liberty Jump Team are also set to participate.
The reenactment, he said, makes a perfect fit with Gainesville’s ongoing patriotic theme, and has an ideal location in proximity of the airport.
“Most of these events don’t use aircraft, and most events don’t have a piece of property next to an airport,” Meeks said. “So we’re going to be able to utilize a piece of property that will not only draw people who are aircraft-minded, but also reenactors who just really see the value of it.”
For more information, visit www.camphowzemvpa.com.