KINGSTON TWP. — Bethany Huh’s eyes filled up with tears as she talked about the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly’s plans for the fourth annual POW/MIA Watch Fire Memorial on Sept. 16.
“I always tear up when I talk about military families,” said Huh, the ministry liaison at the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly.
Huh’s family’s military ancestry stems back to the Civil War with her great-great-great-grandfather Cpt. Daniel J. Morton, and also includes her grandfather, Holden Newell, who served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II. Her great-uncle Fred Brown was killed in Vietnam.
Huh’s emotional display reflected the church’s commitment to remember military personnel who never returned home to their families. On Friday, Sept. 16, which is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly will hold the fourth annual Watch Fire and POW/MIA ceremony.
“Many people are not aware of National POW/MIA Day,” said Dave Cuba, the coordinator of the Remember Our Veterans Memorial Committee at the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly. “Veterans Day is where we recognize any veteran who served (in any military branch). Memorial Day is for those who have given their lives in the course of (military) service. National POW/MIA Recognition Day is when we recognize the ex-POWs who have returned home, the current potentially unknown POWs (Prisoners of War) and MIAs (service members Missing In Action).”
The event is organized in conjunction with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. with the lighting of a watch fire at the future site of the Remembering Our Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the church at 340 Carverton Road, Trucksville. The event is free and open to the public.
The ceremony will include a flag presentation by state Rep. Karen Boback (R-Harveys Lake), color guard from Daddow-Isaacs Post No. 672 Dallas American Legion Riding Club, comments from Pastor Ray Petts and a U.S. Army Chaplin, said Pastor Ray Petts.
Lackawanna County Judge Thomas Munley, who served in the U.S. Army’s 11th Infantry Brigade in Vietnam, will be the keynote speaker, Cuba said.
Watch fires have historically been used by the military as a way of regrouping troops after a battle, Cuba said. Watch fires were typically lit on hillsides or at a mouth of a river, he said.
“A watch fire is a symbol to usher the soldiers to home,” Petts said.
“We use it (watch fire) to help spiritually guide people,” Cuba said.
Families who never had their loved one return home from war is very unsettling, Petts said.
“It is a lifelong process for closure for these families,” Cuba said. “It is pretty horrifying.”
The Remember Our Veterans Memorial Committee at the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly is working to develop a memorial at the site of the watch fire to foster emotional healing for military families of Northeast Pennsylvania.
The Remember Our Veterans Memorial will include a watch fire circle, monuments to honor all five branches of the military, a landscaped area with benches where guests contemplate a lost family member, or other military-related experience.