ELLINWOOD — A sophomore at Ellinwood High School, Forrest Williams and his friend Collin Werhahn have an unusual hobby for boys of that age-they collect war memorabilia.
Forrest saw his first war item at age 5 and the rest is history. At first, his Mom, Tracy, tried to discourage it, but Forrest now has a basement room full of objects from as far back as the Civil War. Some things are also stored in his bedroom.
“It’s from all different wars,” said Forrest, ranging from the Civil War up to the current wars.
He has recently added some Russian rifles and revolvers, to his collection, including ammunition covered with the Cyrillic alphabet. Some if his finds come from gun shows, the internet, or from friends who say their children have no interest in their war service.
Included in his collection are a WWII Swiss flashlight, patches, a machine gun ammunition box, uniforms, a decontamination kit, and bayonets.
Werhahan, whose interest is nearly as intense as Forrests, has a lot of WW II memorabilia including Nazi flags and patches.
Forrest’s favorite collectibles also come from WW II because it had such a vast military. His second interest is in the Civil War, but there are not a lot of items left from that period, he said.
Along with Forrest’s brother Quincy, the three attend reenactments whenever possible. They have gone to Ft. Larned on numerous occasions and enjoy the reenactments and receive encouragement from primarily older men who participate and who enjoy telling the boys jokes and stories.
“I’d rather go camping in the outdoors, or play paintball,” Forrest said. He doesn’t really care for video games.
They wear duplicates of the original clothing, which for Civil War soldiers, were wool uniforms with brogans made of 100 percent leather. The brogans can fit either the left or right foot and nowadays, cost over $100.
The wool uniforms are uncomfortable at times. “The wind makes it better,” said Forrest.
Another reenactment the boys recently attended was at Prairie Grove, Ark. Because it is a state park, they used the real battle field and forged the actual river the armies crossed.
“We were Union soldiers,” said Forrest. There were about 500 Confederate soldiers.
The next event the boys will attend is in Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of the famous battle. Forrest said there are usually 20,000 re-enactors.
“There needs to be young guys to carry on,” he said.
The boys will have to pay their own way to Pennsylvania. It is a cheap vacation because they will be cooking their own food and sleeping in a tent.
Mother Tracy Williams said the boys had to do well in school to go.