(The VVA 103 Annual Memorial Day Watchfire is a rain or shine event.)
The next Memorial Watchfire is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, May 27th, 2018 in the Veterans Memorial Watchfire Park, New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, NY.
(See annotated aerial photograph at page end).
The Watchfire ceremony and lighting of the pyre commence at dusk, but do go earlier to get a good spot! Food and drink vendors will be on-site.
The Watchfire stems from the military tradition that following a battle or long march, a large fire would be started so those missing or lost could locate and rejoin their comrades. Using that time honored model symbolically, we use the warmth and light of our Watchfire to guide everyone to join us in reflection of those comrades who have gone before us and made our nation strong through their service and sacrifice.
VVA Chapter 103 uses the Watchfire and accompanying ceremony to make Memorial Day more meaningful for everyone in the community. We invite Veterans and Non-Veterans to gather at the Watchfire to honor those who have so faithfully served the nation.
The 1995 Watchfire honored the American Veterans of World Wars I, II and Korea.
In 1996 we dedicated the event to the Gold Star Mothers. The 1997 event was dedicated to honor Women in Service. Please help us to ensure that Memorial Day does not pass without a suitable remembrance of the women who have served and are serving the nation.
The years following 1997 have been dedicated to all United States of America Veterans.
Come join us at the Watchfire to make Memorial Day an event that honors all those who have served and given their all for our way of life.
The Watchfire also allows VVA Chapter 103 to provide the community with an opportunity to respectfully retire unserviceable American Flags. You are encouraged to bring tattered, worn or faded American Flags for respectful burning on the pyre.
VVA Chapter 103 Memorial Watchfire, 2017
The Thank-You List
The efforts and generosity of many individuals, businesses and organizations are required to stage the VVA, Chapter 103 Watchfire. Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 103, under the guidance of President, Gordy Lane, and Vice President, Dan DiFlorio, would like to thank the following for their generous support and untiring efforts:
The event Chairmen: Bill Martin, Pete Bronstad and the Watchfire Committee without whom this event would not take place every year.
Dick Madden for his high energy performance as Watchfire Master of Ceremonies.
The volunteers and especially the many volunteers who built the pyre. The Carpenters Union whose membership came and volunteered their time and expertise along with other trade members. Marty from the Carpenters Union is the foreman of the pyre build.
The members of Chapter 103 who volunteered and worked extremely hard to make this Watchfire available free of charge to the community.
This year we would like to thank Russ Oakes for being our one-man security force this weekend. Thanks Russ. Semper Fi
The volunteers in the tent selling our products. All products sales proceeds go toward continuing the Watchfire Program.
Our thanks go out to The Great New York State Fair folks who every year allow us to use the Watchfire Park. Show them our support by attending the other great events that the Fair puts on all year around.
A special thanks to Governor Cuomo for his special proclamation that all NY State Offices would collect and bring flags to the Watchfire for retirement. We received seven-hundred American flags.
We would like to recognize Eric Hesse, the Commissioner of the New York Division of Veterans Affairs, for his first visit to the Watchfire.
Thanks to the Solvay and Taunton Fire Departments for standing by at the event. We must have a fire service in attendance during the Watchfire.
Syracuse Mayor, Stephanie Miner, and the Commissioner of the Parks and Recreation and Staff in making the stage available and providing a bucket-lift truck for fuel to be placed on the fire.
Thanks to Tom Pirro, Thomas J. Pirro, Jr. Funeral Home, Woodlawn Cemetery and Mausoleums and Steve Sloan for their generous donation that made the 2017 Watchfire viable.
Thanks for the sound system from National Audio, staffed by Mark Hummer and Jeff Moleski so that we could hear the event.
The Dr. Tom Dooley Choraliers. The choraliers did beautiful renditions of a Military Services Medley and "God Bless America."
The a cappella singers, "NoXcuse," who sang the "National Anthem." The National Anthem is difficult to sing, but NoXcuse hit it out of the park.
Dale Bloss and the Syracuse Scottish Pipers, who played the bag pipes and drums. Their "Amazing Grace" was glorious – and for the other played from the heart music.
Professor Louie and the Chromatics, for their music and Dinosaur Radio 103 FM DJ, Nick Caplan, for making it possible.
Thanks to Jeff Stockham for his rendition of "Taps" on an authentic Civil War military bugle.
A special thanks to Home Depot for donations of material needed to safely build the fire.
Dan Boscoe and his staff for making the food and providing beverages for this event despite the flooding.
Our ice cream vendor, Cruisin Cones, for their time and cooling treats.
We thank our greatest supporter DJ, Nick Caplan, and "Dinosaur Radio" 95.3 – 103.9 FM for giving us free air time to promote the Watchfire and the fine music he provided during the event.
Twin Trees Pizza of Baldwinsville for giving us the best pizza ever.
VVA, Chapter 103 Chaplain, Greg Robinson, for his inspirational invocation.
Thanks to VVA 103 member, Keith Zinsmeyer, the Watchfire fuel guy.
Charlie Johnson, for his small and very loud ceremonial cannon.
Thanks to Onondaga County Sheriff, Eugene J. Conway, and the OCSD Air-1 aircrew for the helicopter flyovers and static display.
Thanks to Brandi of Inspirational Face Painting who does beautiful work with her creations.
We are grateful to ABATE for assisting in the Motorcycle run and donation, and to Manny Falcone for organizing the motorcycle run and for his donation.
The Veterans Administration Medical Center for bringing out the Mobile Vet Center. Along with an opportunity to help and counsel vets at the Watchfire and everyday. It is what they do best in helping the Veteran Community.
Thanks to everyone for making the Watchfire the premier Memorial Day Weekend event. The Watchfire is the largest gathering of Veterans on Memorial Day week end and showing the community that there are still people who can respectfully remember those who gave their all so that we can be free.
Thanks to Clear Path for Veterans for helping build the fire and for serving our veterans daily through their many and excellent programs.
We wish to note that Paul Dufault passed away last week. Paul worked for years helping not-for-profits raise money through his 50/50 sales. He worked relentlessly for fire and EMS departments across Onondaga County as well as the Watchfire. Goodbye Paul.
Lastly, because it is Memorial Day all of us should thank those men and women serving and have served their country that protect our freedoms every day and kept us safe for over two centuries.
Stay well, stay safe, and we will see you all next year.
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