Watchfires – Keeping a Vigil for the Lost Patrol

The tradition was observed at Piermont Pier and several other locations in the county.

By Patricia McGlade, NY Vets

On May 30, 1987, the traditional Memorial Day, members of Rockland County chapter 333, Vietnam Veterans of America, came together to build Watchfires along the western shores of the Hudson River.

Watchfires date back to our country’s first war.  George Washington used them to signal the ceasefire ending the Revolutionary War.  Reference is made in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the use of them in the Civil War.

We built our fires according to the military specifications of the 1700’s:  21 foot square at the base and 21 feet high.  We used the mountaintops when we could, which were reminiscent of our fire bases in Vietnam.  The fires were lit at midnight, to burn for the 24 hours of the traditional Memorial Day.  We stood watch, changing shifts as we had a generation ago, symbolically keeping watch for our lost patrol that still had not returned, and the patrols of past wars, to our country’s first soldiers who fought and may still wander along these shores.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of our first Watchfire.  We will continue to light them – to remember our brothers and sisters who never returned to the fields and mountains of their childhood – as we keep a vigil for the lost patrol. 

The attached photos were all taken at the Piermont Pier Watchfire on May 30, 2012.




Mickey June 14, 2014 at 04:48 PM
What a wonderful tribute!! Thank you Al Christiansen of Dover, Delaware, for bringing this to my attention. God Bless all of the Vets who participate in this great cause, helping the returning Veterans in so many ways!! I am so proud of you Cliff, and of all of the men and women you work with!! Marilyn


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