Watch Fire Lit to Protect Memorial on Eve of Holiday
Eight years ago, on the eve of Memorial Day vandals splashed red paint on the monument at Veteran Memorial Park and scrawled “War is Weakness” on the memorial to honor those who had lost their lives while fighting for our country.
But that did not stand in the way of local veterans holding a ceremony to honor those whom served before them, as well as those whom they had served alongside, and gave their lives in service to their country.
“What do we do to make sure this didn’t happen again?, ”Putnam Count Director of Veterans Services Karl Rohde said was the discussion among local veterans.
Rohde said it was A. Gerald Schramek of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department who suggested a guard duty be organized to watch over the memorial on the night before Memorial Day.
Rohde said he had heard of a group of Vietnam Veterans who lit watch fires and decided Putnam County Veterans would do the same on not the one night, but over the course of the three nights leading up to the national holiday.
The watch fires are based on a Civil War tradition that is expressed in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Rohde wrote in the Putnam Veterans Register in April, through the lyrics: “I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps.”
Since its inception, Rohde said that Lake Carmel resident and former U.S. Marine John Morris was a very active participant in standing guard throughout the three nights.
“I could always rely on John whenever I needed him,” Rohde said, of his friend and fellow veteran, who could be called on in the middle of the night in order to relieve someone unexpectedly.
Several years ago, Morris tragically died in a car accident and Rohde named the watch fire vigil in his name, in order to honor his dedicated service.
“Out of something very bad, something good came of it,” Rohde said.
The Putnam Countywatch fire, lit in a 55-gallon drum, also offers an opportunity for local veterans to collect tattered American flags and dispose of them honorably.
Last year, the disposed close to 3,000 flags, many of which had come from the graves of veterans.
Rohde said that community members who have a damaged or worn flag can deposit them in retired post office boxes that have been designated as flag drop-off locations and are located in front of the Brewster train station and in front of the VFW Hall in the Hamlet of Carmel on Gleneida Avenue.
Rohde said that he hoped the community would attend the opening ceremony for the watch fires to be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 25 atVeterans Memorial Parkon Gipsy Trail Road in Carmel and that they would revisit the vigil during the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, May 27.
In addition to the watch fire vigil, there are many opportunities for Putnam County residents to remember and pay homage to those who died while serving our country in the armed forces.
Sunday May 27, 2012:
VFW Post 1374 in Carmel
9:00 a.m. Ceremony at monument onTerryhill Road in Kent.
11:30 a.m. Ceremony at Post Home 32 Gleneida Avenue in Carmel. Refreshments to follow 11:30 Ceremony
VFW Post 2362 and American Legion Post 275-
11:00 AM memorial presentation at Parrott Gun Memorial by the waterfront in Cold Spring.
Monday May 28, 2012:
VFW Post 391 in Putnam Valley
11:00 a.m. Ceremony atPutnamValleyTown Hall
Noon Ceremony at the Lake Peekskill Monumentlocated on Chester Place
1:00 p.m. Ceremony Post Home located at 153 Oscawanna Lake Road. Refreshments to follow.
VFW Post 672, Brewster
10:30 a.m. Parade from Brewster Fare House to Electrozone Field.
11:00 AM Ceremony at Electrozone Field
Flag Raising Ceremony at Post Home Following Ceremony at 262 Peaceable Hill Road. Refreshments to follow.
VFW Post 2362 and American Legion Post 275 in Cold Spring
9 a.m. Parade fromMain Street to Cold Spring Cemeterywhere a ceremony will be held. Refreshments will follow at another location that will be announced at the ceremony.
VFW Post 5491 Mahopac
10 a.m. Parade from Clarke Place to Veterans Memorial Park on East Lake Boulevard, where a ceremony will be held at the monument.
American Legion Post 1080 Ceremony following VFW Ceremony at333 Buckshollow Road
Refreshments to follow at Post home located at154 East Lake Blvd
VFW Post 9257 in Putnam Lake
10 a.m. Parade from Castle Restaurant toVeterans Monument on Haviland Road, with a ceremony to follow. Refreshments will be served at the post home located at4 Fairfield Drive.
Wednesday May 30, 2012:
Putnam County Joint Veterans Council
7:00 p.m. Traditional Memorial Day at Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park located on Gipsy Trail Road in Carmel.
Adam has worked in the local news industry for the past two decades in Westchester County and the broader Hudson Valley. Read more from Adam’s author bio here.