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Civil War re-enactors raise preservation funds in Tarentum

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Re-Enactor Mike Valasek (L) who is with the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Company F Freeport, explains the history of the displayed items to fello re-enactor, Keegan Bello who is dressed in uniform and Kyle Kubicko of Fawn Township, at the Allegheny Valley Historical Society Heritage Museum in Tarentum on Sunday November 4, 2012. Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch.
Valley News Dispatch
With Civil War re-enactors in the background, Jan Valasek of the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Company F Freeport, wipes her eyes as she reads from 'The Last Battle' at the Allegheny Valley Historical Society Heritage Museum in Tarentum on Sunday November 4, 2012. Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch.
Valley News Dispatch
Mike Huston (L) of Fawn Township, holds a Civil War era item as he talks with Michael Richards and his daughter Larkin about Civil War history at the Allegheny Valley Historical Society Heritage Museum in Tarentum on Sunday November 4, 2012. Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch.
Valley News Dispatch
Mike Huston (L) of Fawn Township, holds a bullet as he talks with Michael Richards and his daughter Larkin about Civil War history at the Allegheny Valley Historical Society Heritage Museum in Tarentum on Sunday November 4, 2012. Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch.

When Civil War re-enactor Mike Valasek recounted the history of Veterans Day on Sunday, he had trouble holding back tears.

“I'd have to say it's about the respect I have for veterans,” he said after a program at the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society in Tarentum. “Just knowing what I know about Civil War soldiers and what they went through … I just have the utmost respect for what they've done.”

Valasek, 57, of New Kensington, and his wife, Jan, are members of the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company F, of Freeport, a group of Civil War re-enactors who portray a typical Union Army unit and raise money for battlefield preservation.

The co-ed group, dressed in Civil War-era uniforms and clothing, displayed relics and shared their knowledge with museum visitors about the Civil War, which was fought from 1861 to 1865.

“Veterans Day was founded with World War I, but in modern days it's tied in with all wars, and you appreciate all veterans,” said Matt Hooks, 32, of Allegheny Township, vice president of the 78th PVI.

The Hooks family joined the re-enactors about 18 years ago, said Vickie Hooks, 55, of Kittanning Township, Matt Hooks' mom. Through research she did as a member, she learned that her great-great-great-grandfather was in the 78th Company K out of the Slate Lick area during the Civil War.

Hooks and fellow member Jan Valasek, 56, of New Kensington said camping out during a weekend re-enactment helps them understand what it was like for soldiers and family during that time.

“You realize the hardships that they had,” Valasek said.

“At night when you look out and see all the lanterns lit up, it just really gets you,” Hooks added.

Some members of the group plan to travel to Gettysburg on Nov. 17 for this year's Remembrance Day, which honors the Civil War dead and commemorates Lincoln's Gettysburg Address of Nov. 19, 1863.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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