Annual ceremony at Valley Forge to honor veterans
UPPER MERION — Valley Forge National Historical Park will honor those who served and died in the U.S. military with a Veterans Day Commemoration on Sunday.
As with past events, a focus on the Continental Army’s legacy will highlight the day with music, living history and special guest speakers.
“It’s a traditional commemoration ceremony, similar to other years,” noted Park Ranger and Media Specialist Stephanie Werntz. “We have the support of the Pennsylvania National Guard and the Valley Forge Military Academy.”
On the phone between classes, U.S. Army Veteran and Valley Forge Military Academy U.S. History teacher Adam Messinger noted that he planned to discuss the “common attributes and traits between the Continental Army veteran and a veteran of today, as well as the importance of remembering the sacrifice and service in a historical context and a contemporary one.”
Once deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division for peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and combat operations for the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, Messinger works as a Park Ranger during the summer.
“Being a ranger, I’ve done a lot of research into the history of Valley Forge and the Continental Army, as well as being a combat veteran, and it’s very clear to see the same attributes in historical research as you’d find in contemporary comrades,” he said.
Joining their instructor to honor veterans will be cadets from VFMA, along with Boy Scout Troop 971 from Wayne and many other organizations, Messinger said.
“From what I hear it’s suppose to be a very nice day, so we hope people will come out and join us.”
A unique aspect of the ceremony will be a contribution by Ashley Shimer, historian of Colonial, gender and military history, with its focus on Colonial women in combat.
“She is a pretty special speaker because we never had anyone take on the role of women in America’s military before,” Werntz said. “We thought we would make sure we were doing it for all veterans of the military.”
Shimer, who works seasonally for the National Park Service and is earning her Master’s degree in Public History at West Virginia University, indicated in her bio on the university’s website that her research on gender roles in urban and rural areas in Colonial America has an emphasis on participation in the weapons culture and military endeavors during the American Revolution.
“My undergraduate work focused on women soldiers and camp followers with the American Army, as well as the influence of 19th century cultural values on the writing of 18th century history as seen in the mythic story of Betsy Ross and the glorification of her work on the first American flag while obscuring her participation in munitions manufacture.”
Living history interpreters and volunteers will bring to life the story of America’s first veterans at the Muhlenberg Brigade from 12 to 3 p.m. Ranger-led walks will depart from the Visitor Center at 11:20 a.m. and 1:20 p.m. and continue to the Joseph Plumb Martin trail to the Muhlenberg Brigade. Ninety-minute guided Trolley Tours at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. will make extended stops at the Muhlenberg Brigade and Washington’s Headquarters. Veterans will receive 10 percent off tours and merchandise in The Encampment Store, located on the first floor of the Visitor Center. Veterans and their families are invited to a reception in their honor in the park’s Education Center following the ceremony.
Parking for the ceremony is available at the National Memorial Arch, with additional parking available at the Wayne’s Woods picnic area near the Arch.
“This is such an important park in America’s history,” Werntz said. “It just feels that to do this type of ceremony here on hallowed ground is an honor.”