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Ooh-Rah fundraiser features re-enactors portraying ancient soldiers

Imagine this: two people who enjoy playing the part of ancient soldiers so much that they wear heavy armor in the heat of summer.

“The armor is not meant to breathe or to be comfortable,” said Michael Colweck of Elburn, Illinois. “It was meant to save your life, and it is one of the most uncomfortable things in the world.”

Colweck and his wife, Karen, are military re-enactors, who specialize in the armor and weaponry of Greek and Roman warriors.

The couple will be at Operation Ooh-Rah's biggest fundraiser of the year Saturday, Aug. 9, at the Mead-Allen V.F.W. Post 2306, Afton Road. Dressed as mercenary Hoplites, the Colwecks will greet visitors and host an archery demonstration using ancient-style recurve bows. The Hoplites were heavily armed infantry soldiers of the Greeks.

“We are a sight to see in person,” Colweck said, referring to their eye-catching Corinthian helmets, 23-pound shields and bronze body armor.

When the Colwecks dress as Spartan warriors, they wear 75 pounds of body armor.

“We will lose about 5 to 7 pounds in water on hot days,” Colweck said. “We just have to deal with it.”

The Colwecks have an extensive armor collection, which is authentic in size and weight.

Linn Krafjack of Janesville is the lead organizer of the annual fundraiser to support a care box program for troops overseas.

“We thought everyone in Afghanistan was going to be brought home at the end of this year,” Krafjack said. “But it is not the case. We need to continue to get things over there.”

Operation Ooh-Rah sends toiletries and food stuffs to troops in Afghanistan and in previous years to troops in Iraq. Krafjack said she has mailed more than 40,000 pounds of goods since the effort began seven years ago.

Krafjack's son Henry J. Pulcine inspired Operation Ooh-Rah when he shared a story about a fellow Marine who did not get a toothbrush replacement for several months. Pulcine is expected to attend the event for the first time.

The Colwecks are demonstrating for no fee to help the cause. American Idol contestant Michael Powers also is expected to attend.

“I'm hoping we will put $9,000 or $10,000 in the bank this year,” Krafjack said.

Smaller events are planned through February to raise more money and awareness.

“If you don't have someone in your family in the military, you tend to forget about the war,” Krafjack said. “Helping people remember is a big part of my job.”

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