Radiance employee Bill Butler has a very unique hobby. He can be seen around Huntsville dressed a little differently than how he is seen at work. In his spare time, Bill participates in war and soldier reenactments. Over the course of 18 years, he has been in hundreds, maybe even thousands, of reenactments all over the country. When asked what started this hobby, he said a friend had asked him to participate one day, and that he had loved it ever since.
Because of Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville is a popular place for reenactments. “The biggest thing we do in Huntsville is the Veterans Memorial in downtown. I was proud when they asked me to pose from the Korean War era. There is a picture of me there representing the Korean warfighter. When my family came to town, the first thing they wanted to see was my picture in uniform at the memorial,” said Bill.
Bill and his group perform in reenactment time periods from 1776 to modern times, participate in parades, and visit schools. “I can now dress up for more than seven wars. I have a closet in my house full of uniforms and weapons. I have people make the uniforms for me. If we don’t have something from that era, we don’t dress up. We always dress in full, complete uniform,” says Bill. “We will never wear anything or put on anything that we can’t answer. That is why we research the era so intensely.”
On the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, Bill had the privilege of travelling to New Orleans where there were over 1,600 reenactors present, with visitors from all over the world. He also participated in the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War in Washington D.C. in 2011. There were over 7,000 reenactors in uniform on the battlefield that day—his largest reenactment to date. He is now a part of at least four full-time reenactment groups.
Bill’s main reason for reenactments is to show how the soldiers from that time lived, what they wore, what they sacrificed, and what they suffered, regardless of which ‘side’ they are on; he has been British, Spanish, all different types of soldiers. The reenactments replicate what that particular soldier did and attempt to provide a little history of the time period, as well. “I do reenactments because I am telling someone else’s story. I am educating someone, and sometimes I may be providing closure to someone,” said Bill.
Bill spoke of the Honor Flights they do to Washington D.C. where they take World War II veterans to the World War II Memorial. For families who have a veteran family member who passed away during the war, they bring an American flag. The Air Force then takes the flags to Washington D.C. and returns the flags back to the family members with a certificate.
“I remember delivering a flag and certificate to a young man and him saying how much he appreciated it because he never got to meet his father. He said it meant a lot to him to receive it and to see me in uniform. To some, it is closure. That is one of my fondest memories of reenacting,” said Bill.