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Watchfires Burn Across Rockland County On Memorial Day

The watchfire at the Piermont Pier in 2014.
The watchfire at the Piermont Pier in 2014. Photo Credit: Peter Marino/Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 333

ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. - An annual tradition that began in 1987 to honor the veterans who didn't make it back resumed again across the county.

Four Watchfires were lit and scheduled to burn for 24 hours beginning at midnight on Monday, May 30, an annual Memorial Day coordinated by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 333, Rockland County. The fires can be seen at the end of the Piermont Pier, at Clausland Mountain in Orangetown, Bowline Park in Haverstraw, and Eugene Levy Memorial Park in Pomona.

The tradition first began as a way to memorialize soldiers who served and didn't make it home from the Vietnam War but has since expanded to include men and women who served in all wars, Watchfire Commander Peter Marino said.

Watchfires are a military tradition; the large fires were lit so missing or lost soldiers could find their fellow troops. Marino said use of the fires date back to the Revolutionary War, and they were also used during the Vietnam War.

"It's a beautiful sight. I'm really honored to have done it for 25 years," Marino said.

Marino explained there is an added significance with one of the locations: 1.3 million soldiers were shuttled from the end of the Piermont Pier into the city, and off to Europe during World War II.

The fire supplies are donated by both Sullivan Tree Care in West Nyack for 20 years, and Klepper Tree Service in Tappan, who also help set up the fires. Both companies have been helping the VVA for a number years.

"It's a beautiful sight when it takes off," Marino said.

"We started it to honor our men from Vietnam who never came back, and it progressed over the years so we honor all the wars, all the men and women," Marino said.

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