VVA Finger Lakes Chapter 377 held its 28th annual Watch Fire to commemorate on National POW/MIA Recognition Day Sept. 21, 2019 at Myers Point in Lansing, N.Y. The event featured a watch fire ignited from a pile of wood larger than a house, and was attended by veterans, active service people and Cornell University’s ROTC Brigade.
“The watch fire has been a tool of military action throughout the history of warfare,” chapter member and organizer Harvey Baker told the Lansing Star. “When soldiers were separated during battles, they were able to find their way back to their units because of fires that were lit to guide them.”
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Joanne Dabulewicz, who served as a field medic, flight medic and as a nurse at the VA Medical Center in Syracuse, spoke about the increasing difficulty in locating the remains of fallen soldiers. “Time is not on our side,” she said. “With the terrain changes over the last 50 years and deaths of the surviving MIAs, the work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is becoming more difficult.”
Baker memorialized three missing men from local communities including U.S. Air Force Capt. William Phelps, who was shot down Nov. 23rd, 1971 over Laos. More than 82,000 Americans remain MIA since WWII, and 104 are still missing from New York State, Baker said.