Memorial Day watchfire honors those who have served

Watchfire preparations

Behind all of the flying flags and next to the scribbled messages, is a purpose.

Paco Valle served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years and is coming to the State Fairgrounds to watch this years watchfire. "It's a healing for our veterans and it's an observance of the Memorial Day itself," says Valle.

Veterans and their families came out alongside neighbors from the community to honor those who have served, as well as those who are still serving right now.

Ray Nicholas is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. "This is my family, all veterans. Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps. They're all my family. I don't know everybody here, but I come out every year just for the simple fact to pay my respects," says Nicholas.

Family members and those who have served wrote thoughts up on the wall in front of the watchfire, saying goodbye to someone they lost, or writing an inspirational message to someone still fighting.

Michael Hall is currently serving in the Army Reserves. "I posted down there to one of my friends who gave his life in Afghanistan. It's a thank you. It's showing who you are and what you did," says Hall.

Watchfires were used in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as a way to guide lost troops back to base camp. Even 150 years later, this fire still holds significant meaning to families who have lost loved ones in battle.

"This is a way to come together for everyone who may or may not have lost someone, who has or hasn't served, who understands and respects everything they go through. To come together and say thank you and to say I understand and pay their respects," says Hall.

Tens of thousands of American flags are being retired on top of the watchfire, making the night even more emotional.

"They light this up and it is beautiful and it is hot and it is a sight to behold," says Valle.