This coming weekend, May 1 and 2, Washington State Parks will host the 249th Coast Artillery Living History group at Fort Columbia. These men will be at the barracks building and around the grounds giving visitors a taste of what it would have been like to be in the Army and stationed here at the mouth of the Columbia River.
The Fort Columbia Interpretive Center will be open both Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Bring a picnic and spend the day.
In preparation for this event and this summer's re-opening Memorial Weekend, I have been reading and listening to oral histories from veterans who had been stationed at Fort Columbia and Fort Canby. These veterans from both World War I and World War II told through writing and in tape recordings what military life was like. They told of the everyday problems, funny things that happened, and about when the Japanese submarine shelled Fort Stevens. The stories and information have been invaluable in our development of new Fort Columbia exhibits that will be ready this summer.
I have researched the time period of World War II here on the Peninsula and learned about how the local people helped keep up the morale of the soldiers at the forts. Dances were held where young ladies and their chaperones were picked up by buses and trucks and brought to the forts for an evening of dancing and socializing with the soldiers. A canteen was put together in Ilwaco to make a place where soldiers could come and find homemade cookies and a fresh cup of coffee. Women from Chinook would bake cakes and pies for social activities held at Fort Columbia. Many of the soldiers became friends and several became husbands. Many of you are related to some of our local veterans.
As Loyalty Days approaches, we think about our armed forces and our appreciation for all our veterans and active duty military. These men and women, past and present, are our heroes. When you see a veteran or serviceman this weekend and any other time, please thank them for their service.
"Poor is the nation having no heroes, shameful is the one having them who forgets."