BY HEATHER BARR
The watchfires of Clausland Mountain State Park lit up the sky at midnight on Wednesday, May 30, the traditional Memorial Day holiday. This was the 27th annual watchfires memorial and the concept came from watchfires that date back to the Revolutionary War where they were used to help America’s troops send signals to each other. The watchfires ceremony is held in four locations throughout Rockland each year by the Vietnam Veterans of America and they serve as a vigil to all fallen soldiers.
Prior to the lighting was a short ceremony ran by Charlie Maushardt, the president of the Nam Knights Hudson Valley Chapter. This year’s watchfires were dedicated to his brother, Steve Maushardt, a US Marine who passed away a few months ago.
Three objects were placed onto the ground to honor these solider’s missing in action; “to commemorate a fallen warrior, an inverted weapon and bayonet, a tool of war and an instrument of peace was placed in the ground to symbolically mark the spot where for a fallen friend. A pair of highly polished jungle boots, fully laced were placed in front of the based weapon to symbolize our brothers place on earth where he had fallen while standing up for liberty in the same manner as patriots of the past wars have made a supreme sacrifice. Finally, the helmet was placed on top of the weapon to protect our brother and friend. He will suffer no longer from the pain of war,” Maushardt shared.
There was a reading of the names of 46 men listed as Killed in Action in Vietnam from Rockland County and a special thanks was said to all those who make the watchfires possible.
Orangetown’s candidate for receiver of taxes, Christopher Smith, remarked “The watchfires are a somber reminder of all those who have served our country and paid the ultimate price protecting our freedom for over 237 years. The Nam Knights and all those involved have done an amazing job and it is a privilege to attend such a remarkable occasion not only in Rockland County history but our country’s history.”
To honor our veteran’s on Memorial Day, these watchfires are lit and burn for 24 hours and it is a tradition that will be preserved. “I would say that we’re going to continue on each and every year because as we talk tonight we’re already talking about what we’re going to do next year,” stated Maushardt.