Blasts from historic weapons echoed at Kings Mountain National Military Park on Saturday and set the stage for Memorial Day weekend.
Hundreds of visitors from the region came to the annual Military Through the Ages program featuring re-enactors in uniforms from the French and Indian War in colonial times through the Vietnam War.
Kids grabbed their ears and small dogs trembled as an 1841 cannon roared and Revolutionary War flintlock muskets boomed along with firearms from the Civil War, the Spanish American War and World Wars I and II.
At the park 35 miles south of Charlotte near Blacksburg, S.C., it was not only a time for learning about American history but a time for remembrance.
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William Pittman, 39, with the Air Force in Charleston, thought about his uncles who’d been in World War II and Vietnam.
He’d come to the military park with his wife, Andreinne, 36, and their children, Aiden, 11, and Kylie, 9. They planned to spend a good part the day at the battleground where Patriots scored a major victory over Loyalists on Oct. 7, 1780.
“We thought it would be good to get out and see a historical site,” said Pittnan, 39, who served in Iraq in 2006.
Andreinne Pittman, whose father is an Army veteran, thought it was an appropriate outing for Memorial Day weekend. “We should remember the past,” she said.
Ed Browning of Gastonia brought his 5-year-old grandson, Brayden, to the military park.
“I want to share history with him,” said Browning, 55, a Coast Guard veteran. “Every war my family has been represented in.”
Browning and his grandson stopped to examine a German trench mortar owned by Jim Crocker of Spartanburg, S.C., who was dressed as a World War I doughboy with the 118th Infantry.
With the 100th anniversary of World War I approaching, Crocker, 62, reflected on his three uncles who served in that war. One of them, Louis Proctor, died in September 1918 from wounds he received in an attack against the Hindenburg Line, a German defensive position on the Western Front. He was buried in Cherokee County, S.C., a few miles from Kings Mountain National Military Park.
Cocker saw his re-enactment activities as a memorial to his uncle and others who gave their lives for their country.
“They’re the ones who paid the price,” he said.
Robby Gouge, 40, of Weaverville took part in the military program by representing a Vietnam War soldier in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. His father, Jack Gouge, served in the same outfit.
An eighth-grade teacher in Buncombe County, Robby Gouge grew up in the Buladean community, an area in rural Mitchell County hard hit by the military draft during the Vietnam era.
“Twenty-three of my father’s 49 classmates went to Vietnam,” Gouge said.
His father never spoke about the war. It was only much later after Gouge had a history degree that he began to understand the war and misconceptions about the U.S. soldiers who fought in it.
Most of the military items he had Saturday came from soldiers in the Buladean community. Memorial Day “is about sacrifice,” Gouge said. “It’s a day I cherish – a piece of history.”
As 68-year-old Vietnam veteran John Andrews of Gastonia walked the trails at Kings Mountain, he remembered his oldest brother, Capt. Robert Andrews with the 25th Infantry Division, who was killed in Vietnam.
Robert Andrews was named after an ancestor who fought on the Patriot side at the Battle of Kings Mountain.
Looking back through the lens of history, John Andrews expressed his feelings about Memorial Day: “We’re the land of the free because of the brave.”