‘A Walk in Their Boots’ honors veterans

Published 8:01 pm Monday, November 7, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Carden                           Reenactors take to the field at Sycamore Shoals to portray Operation Plunder – the crossing of the Rhine Rivers by American troops going against Nazi Germany.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Reenactors take to the field at Sycamore Shoals to portray Operation Plunder – the crossing of the Rhine Rivers by American troops going against Nazi Germany.

The sound of gunfire could be heard from Sycamore Shoals State Park over the weekend.
Whether it was from the Revolutionary Era, all the way down to World War II, attendees were welcomed with a historic look at soldiers over the years during the fifth annual “A Walk In Their Boots” event.
Over the span of three days, Sycamore Shoals housed thousands to depict various conflicts, even providing a look at conflicts that have taken place in the 21st century.
“This has exceeded our expectations greatly,” Chad Bogart, one of the coordinators of the event, said Saturday. “We’ve had this event over the past five years, three years here. Two years prior we held this at Winged Deer Park but it quickly outgrew there.”
Eric Montgomery is also no stranger when it comes to helping with the event. An avid supporter of the troops, he said he liked what he saw out of Saturday’s attendance — estimated to be over 2,000 by event coordinators.
“I think the turnout today has been extremely well,” Montgomery said. “We have a lot of people listening to veterans’ stories today. We heard from Elizabethton native Earl Ellis, who flew an Avenger during World War II. And the weather today … It’s just been a great day.”
Saturday followed a successful trend coming off Friday’s opening festivities, according to Bogart, with school children having an opportunity to learn the evolution of the American soldier.
“We have over 400 students, from Elizabethton City Schools and Unicoi Elementary,” Bogart said. “They had a chance to come in and get a hands-on experience by seeing the way soldiers have evolved other years, by seeing different things, including the way uniforms have changed.” Montgomery seconded Bogart’s statements by adding the children were able to learn a lot about history.
And history was in abundance Saturday as soon as attendees stepped foot onto the premise. Behind the main lobby various tents and displays were on hand to allow individuals to learn the ins and outs of how things were done during conflicts. Along with the hands on approach, reenactors also took to the battlefield to provide entertainment.
“The public always loves the battle scenarios,” Bogart said. “We want to make these events as family-friendly as possible.”
Stepping back to World War II, spectators were able to journey to Germany, as reenactors portrayed U.S. and German soldiers taking part in battle.
“This would have been only a few months to go before Hitler’s surrender,” Montgomery said about the portrayal that took place. “The American soldiers are crossing the Rhine River. The surrender was on May 8, 1945 so this would have been March 1945.”
While offering multiple reenactments, Bogart said the closet reenactment in Tennessee was as close as Oak Ridge.
But while volunteers, including Borderview Christian Church, assisted the three-day event, Montgomery thanked the various businesses that helped make “A Walk In Their Boots” a success.
“This is the first year we’ve had a chance to do a veterans’ hospitality area,” he said. “We had light refreshments, compliments of many businesses in Carter County and especially in Elizabethton. We’re very appreciative of each of the businesses that helped, big named and little named.”
At the end of the day, with Veterans Day around the bend, Bogart and Montgomery both said the event was all about giving back to those that gave their all for the country.
“This is why we do it. We want to honor those that serve and have served,” Bogart said. “It’s just a fantastic event.”

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