Watchfires burn brightly in Putnam County

Veterans retire American flags

MAHOPAC – Fires burned brightly in steel drums at the Putnam Veterans Memorial Park Friday evening to symbolize veterans’ determination of never having their park desecrated again.

Thirteen years ago on the eve of Memorial Day vandals under the cloak of darkness entered the park and spray painted the veterans’ monument in one of Putnam County’s most despicable and disgraceful acts of vandalism ever recorded.

The veteran’s community rallied that day and the paint was removed in time for holiday services.

Beginning on Friday and continuing throughout the weekend, groups of veterans were joined by members of scout troops from across the county and related stories while patrolling the park until 6 o’clock the following morning.

During Friday’s opening ceremony, Karl Rohde of Lake Carmel, Vietnam Veteran, Silver Star recipient and former state VFW commander, who currently serves as the county’s veterans Affairs Director, thanked the large crowd for gathering. “Out of something horrific has come something good.”

During the gathering, a judge’s robe was burned to symbolize the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows for the burning of the American flag. Rohde called the ruling “not free speech but a disgrace. If people have the right to burn our flag in protest, we too can have free speech and can burn a judge’s robe.”

More than 4,000 American flags were properly retired with veterans and scouts cutting the flags into strips which were incinerated in a large barrel.

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