SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The 2021 Watchfire that usually brings thousands together is cancelled for the second year in a row because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every Sunday before Memorial Day, hundreds of retired United States flags would light up the New York State Fairgrounds.
Despite its cancellation, one of the co-founder’s is still hoping everyone can take pause and honor the fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend.
Bill Martin is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 103 and one of the co-founders of the annual Syracuse Watchfire.
“We’re missing out on a very patriotic day with our remembrance boards, our veterans, our wars, and bringing the flags and burning the flags properly. Plus, just the comradery with people getting together.”Bill Martin, Co-Sponsor of Syracuse Watchfire
He and a fellow servicemember, Peter Bronstad, brought the Watchfire event to the Salt City 25 years ago.
“It started the first time in 1995 with maybe 40 to 50 people. Now, it’s ten to twelve thousand,” Martin said.
Instead of the event being held in-person, the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 103 has posted previous Watchfire videos on its website.
The organization wrote, “we have dusted off the Watchfire videos from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2019 and posted them…It is hoped that watching the videos of Watchfires past will evoke feelings of gratitude and respect for all Veterans of the American Armed Forces who died while in the service of their country.”
“To remember that people lost their lives for country, it’s very important,” — Bill Martin
It’s a ritual that traces back to veterans like Martin, who say they used this technique of burning flags at war. Lighting a fire after a battle was a way missing soldiers could find their way back to their troops.
Martin and many others are hoping the tradition to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, will carry on next year.
You can find the videos to the old Watchfire events by clicking here.