FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Ken Gaff has been a volunteer at the Veteran’s National Memorial Shrine & Museum on O’Day Road for five years.
Gaff says he’s expecting many visitors on Memorial Day.
The 34th annual Watch Fire on May 27th & 28th begins at 6 p.m. on Friday and runs for a 24-hour period until 6 p.m. Saturday evening.
Logs are put on the fire to honor all veterans who served in the U.S. military and died.
Watch Fires date back as far as 1735. They were used during the Revolutionary War to alert lost or wounded troops on where to find medical help, and Gen. George Washington used them to alert his troops of enemy positions.
Crowds have grown at the memorial shrine since a replica of the Vietnam War memorial wall was installed on the property a year ago. The national war memorial is in Washington, D.C.
The wall was on tour until its Texas owner decided to make Fort Wayne home to the solemn memorial with names of the Vietnam War war dead inscribed on it.
New additions to the park are the granite stone benches placed in front of the wall, set off by American flags.
In the 1960s, Gaff was a Marine who spent 13 months in Vietnam and says he wants to honor those who’ve fallen.
“Just to remember the kids that we lost,” Gaff said when asked why the memorial is important. “Not just this war, but in all our other exercises we perform overseas, thank God, not here at home. It’s these guys here on the wall that make a difference.”
The war memorial honors all veterans starting with the Revolutionary War that began in 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence from the British.
The adjacent museum is filled with artifacts including military uniforms and kit.