ROTC honor POWMIA with Sunday vigil

Samuel Beaumonte, Senior News Reporter

While Ellensburg celebrated Veterans Day with a parade downtown, senior ROTC cadets held a 24-hour vigil outside McConnell Hall to pay tribute to prisoners of war (POW) and soldiers that have gone missing in action (MIA).

Their 24-hour vigil started Saturday morning, the moment that Veterans Day started, and they stayed there till midnight with tents and cover setup as they took turns standing at attention.

“There are hundreds every year that we lose and we don’t always know where they’re at. We want everyone to know that we’re still always thinking about them and that they’re not forgotten,” cadet Lieutenant Colonel Austin Shirey said, who was at the vigil.

To honor the prisoners of war and MIA comrades, the ROTC cadets set up a table for the soldiers that could always return, showing that they’re always in their thoughts and their prayers.

The small table symbolizes that there is always at least one soldier out there that we don’t know their whereabouts. On the table there is a plate with lemons set atop it with salt nearby, a wineglass and a lit candle to show that they always have hope that they may come back. There is also a chair set up, ready for the soldier who could come back at any time and take their seat.

“The thing is this still happens. It’s an unfortunate reality where we do still continue to have prisoners of war under the terrorists that we’re facing as well as missing in action that we don’t know what their current status is,” Lawson said.

With many soldiers still being recovered, the cadets feel that it’s important to not only prepare for receiving soldiers, but the danger that they may face as well.

“We always recognize, too, that any one of us soldiers that are about ready to go to war could become a prisoner of war or a missing in action comrade. We want to make sure that they’re taken care of as well,” Shirey said.

This was the Air Force ROTC’s 28th consecutive year holding the event, with 12 participating senior cadets who, when they weren’t standing at attention, were ready to share their message with anyone interested in hearing it.

“I think a lot of students don’t necessarily not know what POW or MIA is, but how prevalent it still is in today’s society unfortunately. We’re kind of here to raise significance to that and remember the real reason why we’re in the program and trying to eventually become officers in the military,” Lawson said.

Representatives from the Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC were also at the parade downtown, which started at 11 a.m. and marched through the streets with flag bearers, the Ellensburg High School marching band and a caravan of military vehicles.

“It’s so nice to have the community come out and support the veterans, not only with the parade, but other things that they do for the veterans,” David Storla said, a former employee at CWU and former staff sergeant in the Air Force. “I’ve walked with some veterans who were Vietnam returnees and they had tears in their eyes seeing the support from the community. It’s very pleasing to know that we as a community can turn around and welcome them back fondly.”