At Old Bedford Village Saturday during "1940s Weekend" - when re-enactors played soldiers and civilians of the Allied and Axis powers during World War II - the aim was authenticity.
It worked only too well for visitor Richard Bohon of Greensburg.
He and his companion Rachel Davis came with mild expectations of a history-filled afternoon, replete with artifacts of old time, and walked into a re-enactment skirmish, with guns firing.
View some of the World War II re-enactment at Old Bedford Village
It brought unexpected emotion to Bohon, who served in the military during the Vietnam War, although he didn't go to Vietnam.
He learned firsthand then, however, that "They teach you to take another man's life," he said.
At the village Saturday, there was at least one gun - a machine gun - that was used during the big war.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
World War II re-enactors Andrew Hollinger (left), 22, of Lancaster and Colby Gregory, 16, of Bloomsburg portray U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division outside of an aid station set up on the grounds of Old Bedford Village. To view a photo gallery, see cu.altoonamirror.com.
"It actually took the lives of men," Davis said.
What he saw disconcerted Bohon enough that he had to sit down a while to compose himself, she said.
Maybe people will eventually realize that war isn't the answer, Bohon said.
Its effects "go on and on," said Davis, recalling an uncle whose tasks as a serviceman in the Pacific in World War II included retrieving body parts from battlefields.
As a civilian, he went into a panic if he saw a person who looked Japanese, she said.
Oliver Kramer of Hagerstown, Md., can vouch for the emotional potential of re-enactment.
He is a German native who served in the German army in the mid-1980s, and came to the U.S. in 1993. He was part of a unit that played German soldiers.
He was mistrustful at first of a reporter's intentions, and made it clear without being asked that his band of re-enactors doesn't put up with "politics."
That means they don't accept anyone who would join to exercise neo-Nazi fantasies, according to his fellow German army re-enactor Robert Scott of Pittsburgh.
Most spectators respect the re-enactors' desire to be authentic for historical purposes - Kramer wore a small swastika on his uniform - and most of the few who protest come around after a friendly explanation, Kramer and Scott said.
Mara Riley of Waldorf, Md., who played a British village air raid warden, said she wouldn't play a Nazi but had no problem with those who do.
She works with computer data for a living and re-enacts to step out of the information overload of modern life, like her husband, also an IT worker, who does woodworking to get away from it all.
Re-enactments are hardly perfect time machines, but sometimes they can be close, as it was once in Maryland, when fog shrouded all traces of modern surroundings and some Amish in a horse-drawn wagon added to the antiquity of the militia-re-enactment milieu they were creating.
If there were a real time machine, she'd take advantage, but only briefly.
She wouldn't have lived long in olden times, being a preemie at birth and being afflicted with allergies. "I need my Claritin," she said.
Bob Michanowicz of Alexandria, Va., was playing a major in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, a paratrooper, and the pretending wasn't far from the reality.
He's a colonel in the Military Intelligence Readiness Command, and he's been in Iraq for both Gulf wars.
He likes history, but more important, he wants to honor veterans, he said.
He learned to love what they stand for from five uncles who served in World War II, he said.
Mostly, he heard the funny stories from their time at war, but underneath, he senses they were "men of great purpose and dedication," he said.
Among the best ways to honor those uncles and other veterans is to portray what it's like for people who were never in the service, he said.
Many are "utterly fascinated," he said. It's then he feels that he's "turned on the lightbulb," he said.
The World War II re-enactments continue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m today.