Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Go visit the Army Heritage Trail!

You haven’t heard from me since we’ve moved to Maryland, but I swear I haven’t been on summer vacation. Along with my day job at Wave of the Future, I have posted a new unit history over at Military Vet Shop, researched a couple more, and started volunteering at Harpers Ferry NHP. In addition, we’ve been making a lot of day trips, hikes, and bike rides to historic sites. For the last six weeks, we have been visiting old haunts and finding some new ones. I am overdue in telling you about them and I thought I start with one of my favorites (if you can even pin me down to a favorite), the Army Heritage Trail up at the Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Back in June, I told you about doing research at the AHEC. I was back there again in August looking up some information for a history of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade (yet to be written, sorry). My daughter Meaghan was with me, so I thought it might be fun to walk around the Army Heritage Trail before we left. The Army Heritage Trail is a walking path through a series of outdoor exhibits that you can walk through, touch, climb on, and otherwise immerse yourself in military history of different periods. I had not walked out there since 2006 when the AHEC had opened a replica of “Redoubt #10” from the Battle of Yorktown. They have since added an interpretation of a Vietnam Firebase and a World War I trench system. The Heritage Trail also has displays of a WWII barracks compound, a Civil War artillery display, and a blockhouse from the colonial era as well as many others.

It was the WWI trenches that we probably enjoyed the most. Meaghan is 26 now, and not at all a history geek like me. Nevertheless, she says that being able to walk through something like this brings history to life. You should have seen her running around taking pictures. We’ve only included a few images here. You absolutely have to experience this exhibit (and the whole trail) for yourself. The signage is excellent. The trench “system” includes a mortar pit, an aid station, troop sleeping area, and officer’s command post. If you peer over the top of the trench, you can see the German concrete bunker across “no man’s land.” Then leave the American trench, and walk through an underground tunnel to observe the Americans through the window in the German bunker.

The AHEC is open M-F from 9:00 am to 4:45 pm for research or to view indoor museum displays. Weekend hours are available from April to October. The great thing about the Heritage Trail is that it is open every day from sunup to sundown. On summer weekends there is usually a reenactor event. Check out their website for details and directions.

We honor our vets by not forgetting them. One way to do that is by learning what they went through and what their experiences were. If you’ve got friends and family that you want to hang out with, but aren’t really into history, try out the Army Heritage Trail. It is kids-of-all-ages friendly and I guarantee that fun learning will take place. You never know, with hands-on history they just might be engaged in a way you’ve never seen before.

Next post: Bicycling on the C & O Canal!

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