This year, Chicago celebrated its 10th Annual Military History Fest at the Pheasant Run Convention Center, where 1,500 people gathered to celebrate military history, perform reenactments, and learn about the cultural history of war from people of all time periods, from the Roman Empire and into the modern day. The three-day celebration was accessible for people of all ages and offered educational and purchasing opportunities for those interested in wartime memorabilia.
The festival aims to honor the memories of those who served and are currently serving in the United States military by helping to make history come alive. History is primarily learned through textbooks, but actors at the convention are passionate about living history and teaching people about historical figures through live interaction.
People from many time periods were present and wearing antique military uniforms from World War I and World War II. The 353rd Infantry Division, which specializes in World War II, also brought memorabilia from World War I, including items like the World War I Occupation Ribbon and the World War II Victory Medal. The first of which was given to any member who served in Germany or Austria-Hungary and the second awarded to all members of the Armed Forces who served at least one day of honorable, active, federal service between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946. The World War Ii Victory Medal is adorned with the Liberty figure resting her right foot on a war god’s helmet with the hilt of a broken sword in her right hand and the broken blade in her left hand.
Vendors also had a range of military coins, including challenge coins like the World War II Honorable Service Challenge Coin. Challenge coins are small coins or medallions that are usually presented to a member of a unit for special achievements; however, they are also collected by service members. There are several origin stories that exist about challenge coins, but historians do know that they emerged during World War I. The first coins were issues to battalions as symbols of camaraderie and unity and have grown into a great source of pride for many service members. The challenge coin now exists in all branches of United States Armed Forces and is given to improve morale and to commemorate special occasions. For example, the Cold War Veteran Challenge Coin is for those who trained, prepared and fought during 1945-1991. It has a unique design which includes symbols of both the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as a map of East and West Germany. The coins represent a rich tradition of military history and help to commemorate various periods of American military history.
The conference, as well as ribbons, medals, and coins help to honor the countless sacrifices servicemen have made throughout American history. The hundreds of festival attendees learn important facts about military history over the three-day celebration, including the life of various generals throughout military history, the music in the United States Armed forces during the 19th century, and interactive workshops to teach people about the art of reenactment. The festival happens each year and is an important event to keep the tradition of military history alive.