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Former Soldier now a Fort Steilacoom re-enactor

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Former Soldier John Roten has served in places such as Korea, Germany and Panama. He served his country graciously for 16 years before retiring and settling with his family in Fort Hood, Texas.

While enjoying retirement and working as a custodian at a local school, he started giving historical presentations in classrooms.

A lifelong lover of history and the military, Roten attended a reenactment in nearby Waco. Before he knew it, he was involved with the 1st Regiment, United States Infantry unit recreating Civil War battles. He was now recreating parts of military history that he had never seen, but had always appreciated.

When he, along with his wife and two children, made the decision to relocate to Washington in 2001, Roten wished to continue participating in historical re-enactments. So five years ago, he joined the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment, which meets at historic Ft. Steilacoom.

In time, Roten was elected to the Board of Directors for Living History. Like most people who participate in re-enactments, Roten recreates multiple periods of history.

"It kind of keeps me in touch with the Army," he said. "All while teaching others what we've done as a nation."

During a re-enactment, Roten appreciates when veterans come by and tell him that he portrayed that particular reenactment correctly.

"It makes you feel really good," he said.

Before he takes part in a re-enactment, Roten conducts research about the particular event and decides how he will present the information. Re-enactments can be done in a first-person point of view or a third-person point of view, such as a lecture.

Roten is a member of the Washington Civil War Association (WCWA), which presents re-enactments at several different locations in the state. The WCWA holds three to four re-enactments a year, and Roten takes part in most of them.

He still finds himself learning about history from other members, who he meets at various reenactments.

"It is neat to sit and listen to their history," he said.

Roten grew up in Pennsylvania and remembers his love of history as child. He would frequently read books describing the Civil War and our nation's history. While growing up, his family visited Gettysburg twice and other historical battlefields while on vacation.

Now married for 30 years and the father of two grown children, Roten hopes to continue recreating history for as long as he can. He enjoys being able to interact with people and answer viewers' questions about history.

"I hope they come away with a better understanding of our nation's history," he said. 

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