A passion for learning and knowledge doesn’t end in the classroom for Wellington High School history teacher John Perry.
He is a member of the 82nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Unit, a group of Civil War reenactors that was one of many to gather this past weekend for a military history fair at the Lorain County Fairgrounds.
“This is just perfect,” Perry said as he stood with alongside his unit. “It’s a hands-on experience where the public and students can handle equipment and items up close instead of just reading about them. It’s the best feeling. You learn so much more by doing it.”
The unit has welcomed members from Lorain, Ashland, Cuyahoga, and Fairfield counties. They donned replica Union uniforms Saturday that were convincing enough to prompt several attendees to ask whether they were actually worn on a Civil War battlefield.
“We’ll have a recruit come in and then sponsors will guide him to buy the right stuff and avoid getting junk,” said unit first sergeant Eli Johnson. “Our suits are replicas but they are accurate to a T.”
Perry and Johnson have collaborated on countless military reenactments over the course of a 40-year friendship.
Both men spoke on how easily aspects of history can fall through the cracks of time without people willing to document that history and pass it along to younger generations.
“We’re exposing people to what our ancestors did, how they fought for our country,” Perry said. “By portraying soldiers with all this equipment, it really makes it come alive when we talk to the public. You get younger generations that see that and maybe they’ll decide to pass it along one day too.”
In fact, he spotted many former students and members of the Civil War history club from Wellington High School at the fairgrounds on Saturday.
“I’ve been doing this for about 47 years,” said Johnson. “It gets in your blood. It’s so nice to correctly talk with people about it, to guide them. I know John teaches history the right way but many people don’t. There’s people in this country that believe the Holocaust never happened. That’s crazy. There’s people that want to wipe out history like it never happened. That’s what’s nice about keeping it alive.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.