Watch fires burn in Putnam County
Fires burned brightly in steel drums at the Putnam Veterans Memorial Park throughout the holiday weekend to symbolize veterans' determination of never having their park desecrated again.
Seven years ago on the eve of Memorial Day, vandals under the cloak of darkness entered the park and spray painted the veteran's monument in one of Putnam'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.
On Friday evening and continuing through Monday morning, groups of veterans congregated in shifts, told war stories and reflected on the past as well as the present.
Karl Rohde of Lake Carmel, former NYS VFW Commander who currently serves as Putnam's Veterans Affairs Director, thanked the dozens of people who "stopped at two and three o'clock in the morning to pay their respects. Veterans were joined by ordinary civilians who decided to stop by. Out of something horrific has come something good."
During the opening ceremony Friday evening, Rohde, County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Sheriff Don Smith and Harry Sherblom of Brewster, chairman of the Putnam Joint Veterans Council, burned a judge's robe 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 burn a judge's robe."
Hundreds of American flags were properly retired when veterans and scouts cut the flags into strips which were incinerated in a large barrel.
Rohde said in order to provide a fitting grave for the remains of the flags, the "Old Glory Project will provide a new memorial at the park."
The Eagle Scout project was conceived by Declan Cunningham of Boy Scout Troop 14.