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Historical event benefits veterans

By Katie Demeria

While local historical reenactors demonstrate strategies used during a war that took place 70 years ago, their work will be benefiting those who served more recently.

Erek Dorman of Secret Passage Ranch is organizing the ranch's first "WWII in Fort Valley" event, scheduled to take place June 28-29.

All proceeds will go to Secret Passage Ranch's "Victory for Veterans" therapeutic riding program, which helps wounded combat veterans recover by interacting with horses. Many of the program's participants come from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

"It's pretty cool to see," Dorman said. "I've seen guys out there who have lost both of their legs, and they still get on the horses."

According to Secret Passage Ranch's website, the horses are "trained to accommodate the needs of the physically challenged."

"It provides a sense of accomplishment and builds confidence," Dorman said. "And some come out with post traumatic stress disorder and other injuries that aren't visible, so this helps them a lot."

"And, with a setting in Fort Valley, it couldn't be more idyllic or peaceful," he added. "It's a great respite for these guys."

In fact, Dorman said, the program originally started to benefit anyone with special needs through therapeutic riding. But as wars became more prevalent, he said, the ranch began focusing on helping veterans in particular.

The focus works well, as Secret Passage Ranch also supports many historical reenactors like Dorman.

Dorman expects between 40 and 50 reenactors will be present at the event, some from the ranch and others from outside facilities. Many will bring their horses for 20th century cavalry demonstrations.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about some of the vehicles and artillery used during the period, as well. Participants will have their tents set up with equipment displayed for locals to visit.

Dorman was a Civil War reenactor for 16 years. He has focused on World War II for the past five years.

He cannot trace his ancestors back to the Civil War, but in World War II both his father and grandfather served, so he has a connection to that piece of history that encouraged him to pursue World War II reenacting.

He said anyone who is hoping to expand their historical knowledge would benefit from attending.

Many in the valley are familiar with Civil War demonstrations, he pointed out, so a World War II event could provide something different for them to enjoy.

"And these guys really know they're stuff, they know exactly what they're exhibiting," he said. "It's certainly a great educational opportunity. And the ultimate goal, of course, is supporting this nonprofit program that helps the vets."

The event is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 28 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 29. The entrance fee is $5 per car. A food vendor will be on site for part of the event, according to the website.

To learn more, go to www.secretpassageranch.net/ww2.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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