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National Park Public Safety: GETTYSBURG PARK WATCH VOLUNTEERS HONORED

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by John Christopher Fine

Event Photos by Myriam Moran
Gettysburg Natl Battlefield Photos by Randall D Larson

Gettysburg National Military Park, Park Watch Volunteers were honored at a dinner held during the 147th battle commemorative activities on July 3, 2010. The dinner was hosted by Terrie and Jeff Ferguson and their Feed Bag Catering Company. The dinner was attended by park rangers and officials.

“The volunteer Park Watch program started 13 years ago. The Gettysburg group turned out to be the most effective Park Watch in the entire National Park Service. Volunteers here have just completed 100,000 hours of collective service,” Randy Phiel said. He stood on a bale of hay in a large tent and spoke to an audience of volunteers and park officials.

Randy spent his career as a law enforcement officer with the National Park service. He retired two years ago. Together with his partner, current park ranger Rick Pearce, he founded the Park Watch program.   “I’m the Event Operations Manager for the reenactment. Jeff Ferguson, the owner of Feed Bag Catering, called me. He asked, ‘Is it ok for me to offer a dinner for the volunteers of Park Watch. I read a lot about their work in the newspapers and want to do something for them.’ I called Rick Pearce. He immediately responded, ‘This is great. We are trying to think of a way to honor park volunteers for their 100,000 hours of service.’”

The Park Watch volunteers and their families were not only invited to Ferguson’s country cooked dinner of pit beef, cooked ham, macaroni salad, fresh green salad and fudge cake brownies with ice cold lemonade and tea, they were given the privilege of attending reenactment events free of charge.

The annual Gettysburg Battle reenactment is held every year coinciding with actual days of the battle of July 1-3, 1863. While the reenactment is held on private farm land, not on the actual Gettysburg National Military Park. The event draws thousands of spectators from all over the world lured by their love of history. Battles and cavalry charges are recreated, mortars fired, artillery pieces boom across the fields. Many reenactors camp in period tents right on the field. They willingly share their living history with visitors during the events.

“There is no way we can accomplish in law enforcement in the Park what we do without you. We thank you not only for what you do but for who you are,” Ranger Rick Pearce told the volunteers. Rick presented numbered American flags with certificates to the Fergusons and to Randy Phiel to thank them for providing the meal and opportunity for participation in the reenactment. The flags were flown by the Park Service over Barlows Knoll on the battlefield that morning.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania receives more than 3 million visitors each year. Most spend a day or more visiting some of the 6,500 acre Park upon which the battle was fought. The ground was hallowed with 57,000 casualties during three days in July 1863. Farms and barns have been preserved and monuments erected in honor of those that fought and died here during the Civil War.

The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee keeps this aspect of American history alive through reenactments and educational programs each year. It was a fitting tribute to the 125 Park Watch volunteers that work all year around to help preserve and protect the National Military Park to honor them with a home-style country dinner during the events.

John Christopher Fine served as Senior Assistant District Attorney in New York County. He was the Assistant Attorney General In Charge, Organized Crime Task Force and served various state and federal law enforcement and investigative agencies. He is the author of 24 books and remains a consultant to law enforcement on national security issues and organized crime.

To find out more about next year’s events visit www.gettysburgreenactment.com or call them at 717-338-1525. To obtain information about Gettysburg contact their visitor bureau at 1-800-337-5015 or visit their website at www.gettysburg.travel.com.  The National Park Service's Gettysburg web site can be found at www.nps.gov/gett

Event Manager Randy Phiel thanking Park Watch volunteers


Randy Phiel, Terrie Ferguson, Jeff Ferguson & Rick Pearce at dinner honoring Park watch volunteers that logged 100,000 hours helping law enforcement in Gettysburg National Military Park (GNMP).

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