Thousands come to honor veterans at watchfire

2013 watchfire

It's a Memorial Day weekend tradition that's been happening for more than a quarter of a century. The annual watchfire at the Veterans Memorial Watchfire Park at the State Fairgrounds is a symbolic way to remember those lost in battle.

Sunday night's fire was lit around 8:45, but many arrived early in the afternoon. Lighting a watchfire is a tradition which started during military battles battles or marches so missing soldiers could reunite with their troops.

Tonight's watchfire was organized by a local Vietnam Veterans chapter to honor and remember those who served. The event was also accepting old flags to be properly disposed of. It got a bit of an upgrade this year, installing a sound system so everyone could hear.

Diane Papenfus has been coming to the watchfire for 10 years. "It brings everybody together. They all have the same thing in mind that they're remembering people that they've lost. Family members, it's just one big family it seems like. Everybody's here for one purpose and one purpose only," says Papenfus

Gordy Lane is a Vietnam veteran and president of the VVA here in Syracuse. "It hits me big time, the amount of people that took the time to bring their flags out. As a veteran it makes me feel great that we've got a community that cares," says Lane.

The event was also accepting old flags to be properly retired.