Which War?

By Einar Gunn

For the Pennsic Independent

Certain aspects of both events are familiar: armor, boots, helmet, weapons, gear, clothing. There are water-bearers and medics. But in one war, the ammunition is live and there is no resurrection. There is supporting fire, but it comes in the form of explosives rather than rocks from siege engines. The delay for artillery will be minutes, not days, but even those minutes can be crucial. Heat exhaustion is a problem, and it can be lethal at the wrong time. Go down from the heat and you’ll get an IV and a quick evac…hopefully. In both cases, the fighters need water, food, resupply and a competent commander. But the enemy in one cares nothing for chivalry or courtesy. It will strike from the rear, at downed soldiers, even at civilians outside the field of play.

Many SCAdians also serve in the Armed Forces. Each year, a good number of them cannot make Pennsic, because they are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Bosnia or numerous little flare ups in Africa or elsewhere. Reservists and Guardsmen may be in odd parts of the world for training, providing support to allies from Canada to Australia to Thailand. Or they may be activated themselves.

It is important to remember that the wars we play at are often glamorized from the best, most noble events in history, or replayed to bring that aspect to the front of our re-creation.

While you trek around the lake to parties, or to the archery field, remember our brothers and sisters marching long miles in the Afghan mountains with loads of 100 pounds or more. As you don armor and drink water before the field battle, remember those driving convoys on the MSRs in Iraq, or searching house to house for hostile forces. They also sweat and chafe, but dare not doff their gear to cool down, and there are no holds until one reaches the base. Marshals can think of the Peacekeepers in Bosnia, who must remain vigilant that old hatreds between factions don’t erupt into further violence. Even the most contentious and troublesome happenings at War are tame compared to real engagements. Treating a broken wrist at the castle in high heat and through armor is not the same as doing so on a crowded street, where insurgents are flocking for a piece of the action and fire may come in at the medics as they load the victim for transport. Security can think of patrolling a base perimeter or guarding the gate. As you load or unload your trailer, imagine the millions of tons of supplies loadmasters are pulling in and out of planes in desert heat while keeping an ear out for an attack warning.

And yet, many of us in the military are here at the War, despite the difficulty of travel and leave, and the need to return afterwards. Some troops have made it to Pennsic for mere hours, or just long enough to participate in a favorite event. My wife and I are here straight from our Annual Training, she as a combat photographer at an urban combat training site, I from teaching troops how to respond to IEDs.

There are Strongholds of SCAdians in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and aboard several ships. Some people might regard this as crazy, to take a break from the military by playing in the heat and cold while wearing garb or armor and walking long distances on rough ground,

But it doesn’t take many events, or more than one War, for most of us to understand. For the dedicated SCAdian, Pennsic is part of the Dream, and what might appear like a play from outside is a way of life, a way of reaching one’s history and soul.

This War, take a few minutes to make it a way to understand the souls of our real world Warriors. Let the cold, heat, rain and pain remind you that you are alive, and cherish the memory when you return home.