UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – The sun is shining. The hot and humid air is stifling. It leaves you feeling like you’re trapped inside an inner layer of hell. Your steel plate armor is heavy and aches your shoulders and joints. Sweat beads down your face under your helmet. The sounds of clangs, bangs, and grunts can be heard from the tournament field. You step up, tired and nervous but ready. You grip your weapon tightly. You can see the intensity in your opponent’s eyes through his visor. You pay respects to their Majesties the King and Queen kneeling down. You stand and face your opponent once again. The bout begins. You hear the thunderous bangs and clangs as sword clashes against shield. In only a few swings the bout is over and a victor is declared.
This is not 1500 A.D. You are not an actual knight defending your honor upon a tournament field. You are holding a wooden sword and wearing armor you made utilizing your craftsman toolset you received last holiday. This is present-day America.
This is, however, a real event called the Storvik Novice and Unbelt Tourney held in the tradition medieval style by the organization known as the Society for Creative Anachronism.
Allen Blanchette, a former U.S. Army 1st Sergeant, is a role player competing in the tournament, something he encourages prior and active duty military members to do.
“The edge of combat. If you’re a warrior you know what it is. The stress of battle, once you taste it you need more of it. It’s almost addicting” said Blanchette.
Blanchette found comfort and normality, oddly enough in the group due to its military-like nature.
“There is that camaraderie you only find in the military services except now it comes out in the battlefields here” he said.
The SCA is an organization that dedicates itself to re-creating and re-enacting events from pre-17th-century Europe. This also includes holding tournaments of armed combat wearing traditional plate and leather armor. Allen Blanchette is among many warriors with the group forming one of 17 kingdoms in the world that attended and competed in the tourney.
The kingdom of Atlantia encompasses all of Maryland, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, South Carolina, most of Virginia and a small portion of Georgia.
Blanchette encourages all former and active-duty military members to find a local chapter of the SCA in their respective kingdom to help deal with stress, find a military-like community or just simply come out and have fun.
“You’re going to miss that camaraderie. You’re going to miss that tension, that sense of combat and belonging. This is the place to go” he said.
“Get on armor get out there and maybe one day you’ll be in front of me and we’ll be fighting. But I will guarantee you this; It will test you and you’ll enjoy yourself.”