SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — After a three year hiatus, the Memorial Day Weekend Watchfire returned to the New York State Fairgrounds on Sunday.

A massive pile of wooden pallets and retired American flags went up in flames at dusk on Sunday. Thousands of people gathered to watch the blaze.

“The fire is a healing process for us,” said Louis Pascarella, a Vietnam veteran.

The Watchfire’s original intent was to help lost soldiers help find their way home and now is a way to honor our unaccounted for soldiers.

“So many paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Kathleen Gardiner of Central New York.

A 33-year-old Memorial Day Tradition in Central New York held at the New York State Fairgrounds.

“I’ve been coming for probably 20. One of the first ones I came to was when they brought the traveling wall, the Vietnam wall. Then I started bringing my husband and our little one who is now 15,” said Gardiner.

But this year is different for Gardiner and her family.

“We used to bring our mom and dad and they are gone now,” said Gardiner.

Gardiner’s grandfather, great uncle and father all veterans, who are no longer with us. But Gardiner knows in her heart they are there in spirit, making sure to write a message on the wall to them.

“They said thank you and we love you and we miss you,” said Gardiner.

A wall full of powerful messages to our nations heroes.