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Last Friday night at 7 pm a crowd gathered on the beach of Seaside Heights, NJ. They weren’t there for a concert, or a party, or to try and catch the cast of Jersey Shore. They were there for the 20th Anniversary of the NJ S.A.L. POW/MIA Watchfire.
In simple terms, the POW/MIA Watchfire is an annual ceremony that my father organizes for the Sons Of The American Legion in order to honor and remember the more than 73,000 American POW/MIAs, and raise awareness.
See this small section of flags? It represents a group of POW/MIAs from New Jersey. Imagine 73,000 of them. Staggering, isn’t it?
Early in the afternoon, before the ceremony starts, a backhoe comes and digs a giant pit. Pallets are also delivered, to keep the fire burning.
And when i say pallets, I mean a lot of pallets.
At 7 pm, before the sun goes down, the bonfire is started.
The fire is fed all night. It is not permitted to go out.
Once the fire is lit the ceremonies begin. Through the night flags are retired. People collect them throughout the year and bring them. This pile isn’t even a small amount of how many there are. I saw them come in by the truckload.
Another part of the ceremony is the table for one. It’s touching and sad. Everything on the table has a meaning.
Even my youngest understands this is a solemn ceremony. But he does have the most adorable salute.
I am so proud of my Dad for everything he does to make this ceremony happen. I admire his determination and dedication. He has allowed the Watchfire to not go off. There was even one year that there was a hurricane and the beach was closed. Dad held an indoor Watchfire with candles. I appreciate what he does and I know that families with POW.MIAs appreciate it as well. Thanks Dad. I love you.
Today is POW/MIA Recognition Day but know this. POW/MIAs deserve to be remembered every day. They gave everything for everything we have.
Here’s some video footage from this year’s Watchfire. I truly hope you’ll take the time to watch it.
The fire now burns 365 days a year at NJWatchfire.com