Watchfires 2014: Veterans Remember the Lost, Missing in Action

Signal fires a date back to Revolutionary War times

BY BILL DEMAREST

wildfires2014 1PIERMONT – Rockland County veterans and their families last night kicked off the annual Watchfires throughout the county as a way of remembering those lost to war and those still missing in action.

This is the 28th year that the Watchfires have been lit in Rockland, and the tradition still evokes strong emotions for those involved.

“Once the fires are lit and flames get going, it’s like high mass,” said Vietnam veteran Jerry Donnellan, director of the Rockland County Veterans Services Agency. “Everyone gets quiet and emotions run high.”

The Watchfires, built with massive piles of trees that have been cut by local tree companies and donated to the veterans remembrance, took place on the Piermont Pier, at the top of Clausland Mountain in Orangetown, at Eugene Levy Park in Pomona and at Bowline Park in Haverstraw. The Watchfires were started to remember those Rockland County residents lost in the Vietnam War, with the idea of the fires dating back to Revolutionary War times when signal fires were used as a form of communications among Colonial forces throughout the lower Hudson Valley.

At a ceremony at midnight today on the Piermont Pier, the Watchfires were dedicated to the 46 Rocklanders killed in the Vietnam War and the Piermont fire was also lit in memory of Carlos Gonzalez, who was killed in 2006 in Iraq while serving in the U.S. Army. His parents lit the Piermont watchfire.

No one was injured and volunteer firefighters were on standby in case of emergency. In Piermont, recently installed environmental equipment at the end of the pier was wrapped in a protective blanket so it would not be affected by the large fire.

Republished: Nyack Free Press