Just days after the 74th anniversary of D-Day, Fort Carson offered the opportunity to go back in time.

Participants Saturday in the post's Living History Day sat in replica tanks, pulled the trigger of unloaded 1940s machine guns and spoke into clunky communication devices.

"There's something human about the desire to touch something, to lay our hands on history," said Joseph Berg, director of the 4th Infantry Division Museum. "Documentaries and a movie can only teach you so much."

For Laura Evans, whose husband was deployed with his Fort Carson unit to Iraq last week, the day is a chance to "see pieces of history you can't come across every day."

"I learned that grenades were made in the shape of baseballs in the 1940s because every boy knew how to throw a baseball in those days," she said. "How many other places could you learn that?"

Though this year's displays and re-enactors exclusively showcased past wars, the chance for children to interact with military equipment can help them understand the lives of their active-duty parents.

"This may be the first time a kid holds a ... rifle even though their dad does every day. It makes what their parents do out in the field more real," Berg said.

With the recent wave of deployments of Fort Carson soldiers to the Middle East and Europe, the message is particularly germane, both to kids and adult civilians, said United Services Organizations volunteer Brett Blethen.

"Most people don't know what it's like to be stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, and it's even harder to imagine what it was like for people in the Vietnam War, World War II and older wars," said Blethen, an Air Force veteran. "But it's important to see what people had to put up with to understand why we support our troops."

Though Living History is held once a year, the museum aims to educate every day of the year. For some, the museum is their first exposure to military history. For others, it is a gateway to their family history.

"I have two to three people a week come in with a stack of documents filled with Army jargon asking me what I can tell them about their great-grandparent who fought in World War I," Berg said.

Liz Forster is a general assignment reporter with a focus on environment and public safety. She is a Colorado College graduate, avid hiker and skier, and sweet potato enthusiast. Liz joined The Gazette in June 2017.

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