Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is the day set aside to honor and celebrate the American veteran — all of those who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States from the American Revolution all the way up to modem times.
It is a day of pride and remembrance, of respect and reflection. Formerly Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the fighting in World War I, President Dwight Eisenhower had it changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to celebrate all veterans.
In that light, to remind people of the long line of veterans in our history, a Crook County resident and member of the Redmond Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 4108, started what he called the ON PATROL Project.
The project is an ad hoc, mobile living history group that utilizes re-enactors, history enthusiasts, business people and just plain folk dressed out to represent veterans through the eras of American history. Some are veterans and some are not, but all volunteer their time and efforts to help remind people of the importance of our veterans today and in our past.
The originator and director of the ON PATROL Project is Powell Butte resident, Brian O'Connor, a U.S. Navy veteran and author. He is joined this year by several other Crook County residents, including Melanie Marlow, of Painted Hills Custom Leather, who is portraying Molly Pitcher from the American Revolution. Ray Horton, a member of the Grizzly Mountain Long Rifles, a local muzzle-loading group, is portraying a militiaman from the War of 1812, and Sidney Phillips, a senior and NJROTC member at Crook County High School, is representing a U.S. Navy Corpsman of the 2000s timeframe.
Other participants of the ON PATROL Project come from as far away as Camp Sherman as well as the Redmond, Bend and Tumalo areas, with a number joining them from the High Desert Brigade of the North-West Civil War Council.
The ON PATROL Project participants dress in working or combat uniforms and gear rather than dress uniforms, and they "patrol" down the street instead of marching. Dress uniforms and marching are not the day-to-day military.
The ON PATROL Project is attuned more toward the less formal, real world, down and dirty side.
"We do our best to use period gear or correct reproductions." states O'Connor. "You can't say that you are representing a Vietnam era veteran while wearing 1990s-era equipment. Though the general public may not notice it, the veterans do. We strive to be authentic in our outfits and gear. I believe that to do otherwise would be disrespectful."
O'Connor goes on to say "for the first couple of years, we had just fighters. Now we are working at adding those positions without which, the military would not run. The medics and corpsman, the admin and supply types, all the support people that really make things happen. They are all veterans and all deserve recognition."
With a focus to be both educational and inspiring, the group is well-received by parade crowds and always gets a great response and applause as well as long-held salutes from fellow veterans along the route.
"And it's fun too," Mr. O'Connor adds with a smile.
The Project is always looking to expand their presentation with both people and gear.
"We started in 2015 with just one person, me," O'Connor said. "Then in 2016, there was four of us, then eight in 2017. Last year, we had 11 'patrollers' and a riderless horse. This year, we are looking at 13 potentially, plus the riderless horse and escorts again and a 'war correspondent' photographer. We are adding more participants each year and are working toward better representation of all the armed services. Unfortunately, I still have outfits available and nobody to wear them in the parade — but we'll keep working on it."
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