Military Insignia Fair showcases historical artifacts, preserves heritage
February 9, 2012
Military memorabilia collectors, almost 25 from the local area, participated in the quarterly Military Insignia Fair Sunday at the Fort Belvoir Community Center.
The event provided history buffs and military artifact enthusiasts with an opportunity to buy, sell and trade items from all over the world and from nearly every wartime era.
"This is basically a military memorabilia trade show," said Sherita Baker, special events coordinator at the Community Center.
According to Dave Johnson, executive vice-president of the American Society of Military Insignia, the fair has been running at Fort Belvoir for more than 40 years.
Collectors from all over the Washington metro area set up tables displaying a wide variety of domestic and foreign military artifacts -- from crests, awards and ribbons to uniforms, helmets and field gear.
They spent the morning exchanging information and perusing the hundreds of items they had brought to the Community Center.
Baker said that the show was well attended.
"We sold all the tables on the floor this time and we had more than 25 collectors attend, from this area as well as from West Virginia and Pennsylvania," she said. "We even had a gentleman from North Carolina. The (winter) show is usually smaller because it's the off-season; the May show is the big event. We anticipate (that event) to have 120 tables and 50 or more collectors."
Baker said that a primary goal of the insignia fair is to promote awareness of the historical relevance of the nation's wartime past and to expand its appreciation to include currently active servicemembers and their Families.
"The regular patron-base is mature now -- some of them have been coming here for 30-odd years now -- and we're trying to find ways to attract our Belvoir community to continue the tradition," she said. "So this fair was an opportunity for us to reach out and meet those people as well because we really want them to get involved. This is a shared heritage and our current Soldiers collect things all through their career. I have a set of class-As hanging in my closet now from when I was on active duty that I don't want to get rid of because of sentimental value. And now I see that this could be of interest--I'd like someone to hear my story. These people here are veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and they all have stories to share. And this is a wonderful opportunity to (bring them all together)."
Baker also said that she tries to organize the insignia fairs to include special attractions that will appeal to members of all the branches of the armed services and feature special displays that coincide with the military's commemorative appreciation months.
"For the next event we're going to have a demonstration from either the Old Guard or the Air Force Drill Team and we have invited the Military Heraldry Institute to come and have a static display and deliver a speech about what they do," she said. "And since that show will be during Asian Pacific Islander month, we'll have a display specifically for that as well. For this fair, for Black History month, we have a slideshow of prominent African-American military figures."
Baker added that the effort to increase historical awareness is expanding to reach youth as well and that another important goal of the event and of the participating historical associations is to ensure that the nation's military heritage continues with new generations.
"The Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops come out and they can earn merit badges for collecting items," she said. "This is a great opportunity for that. We're working on adding little things like that to help out (the effort)."
"We're trying to get younger people to come out," Johnson added. "The Boy Scouts will invite us to come to their troop meetings and we'll give a talk about how they can earn their badges by collecting military insignia. We provide starter kits with patches and stripes."
The Insignia Show organizers and collectors offered attendees a hands-on way of learning about military history with the authentic pieces that made it.
The next fair is May 6 at the Community Center, located at Belvoir and Taylor Road, Bldg. 1200. Additional information is available by calling (703) 805-3714.