A service never forgotten

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A service never forgotten

Air Force ROTC Eddie Marx holds his position in silence as as he honors those MIA and the POW during the 24-hour vigil on Sunday night. A candle burns as the cadets hold a position of honor for the veterans before them.

Air Force ROTC Eddie Marx holds his position in silence as as he honors those MIA and the POW during the 24-hour vigil on Sunday night. A candle burns as the cadets hold a position of honor for the veterans before them.

Heather Stewart

Air Force ROTC Eddie Marx holds his position in silence as as he honors those MIA and the POW during the 24-hour vigil on Sunday night. A candle burns as the cadets hold a position of honor for the veterans before them.

Heather Stewart

Heather Stewart

Air Force ROTC Eddie Marx holds his position in silence as as he honors those MIA and the POW during the 24-hour vigil on Sunday night. A candle burns as the cadets hold a position of honor for the veterans before them.

Cassandra Hays, Staff Reporter

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The night is cold and silent as the clock strikes midnight on Veteran’s Day. A lone soldier stands motionless in front of Lind Hall. Behind him is a table bearing objects such as an overturned wine glass and red rose in a vase. The seat at the table remains empty to represent the soldiers that will never return home.

Every year, seniors in the Air Force ROTC program hold a 24 hour vigil to honor prisoners of war (POW) and soldiers who are missing in action (MIA). More than 82,000 Americans remain missing and unaccounted for, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The vigil is meant to remind us that a soldiers service, courage and sacrifice is never forgotten.

An opening ceremony signaled the start of the event at midnight on Sunday, which included a speech from First Lieutenant Lauren Letarte followed by the playing of Taps.

“They are unable to be with their loved ones and families today, so we are coming together to pay humble tribute to them and bear witness to their continued absence,” Lt. Letarte said in her speech. “As we look upon this empty table, do not remember ghosts from the past, remember our comrades.”

There are 14 seniors in the program and each took 15-minute shifts to ensure that someone was standing still and silent outside Lind Hall for the entirety of the 24 hours. Behind the soldier was a small table with a white tablecloth, an empty chair and various objects.

Heather Stewart
Air Force ROTC Eddie Marx holds his position in silence as as he honors those MIA and the POW during the 24-hour vigil on Sunday night. A candle burns as the cadets hold a position of honor for the veterans before them.

Each object was meant to convey a certain meaning. A single red rose signified the blood shed by soldiers defending their country, and a plate with a lemon and a sprinkle of salt signified the bitter fate of POW/MIA and the tears shed by their families as they wait for their return.

An overturned wine glass served to remind us that the soldiers were not here to toast with us. A candle represented the light of hope in their loved one’s hearts, while the black ribbon tied around the candle represented those who will never return home.

Seniors in the Air Force ROTC program have put on this vigil for the last 20 years to pay a respectful and humble tribute to POW/MIA personnel.

“The seniors really take a lot of pride in this,” Lt. Letarte said. “There are still hundreds of bodies that are unaccounted for just from Vietnam alone, so it is a big deal to honor them.”

Two CWU alumni are currently still POW/MIA. Their photos and information were displayed at the vigil. Lt. Letarte spoke about how important it was to remind their families that they are not forgotten.

“I think it’s important to remember those who have served before us, and the sacrifices that they and their families have made to our nation and this defense,” Lieutenant Colonel Mark Meier, commander of the Air Force ROTC program, said.

Cadet Captain Michael Reid was one of the seniors in the program who participated in the vigil.

“This event is important because it brings awareness to a topic that does not receive enough attention and that’s bringing awareness to POWs and MIAs that are out there right now, and their families,” Reid said. “We do this every year so the seniors get an opportunity to partake in it.”

The vigil ended with a closing ceremony at midnight on Monday that included a closing prayer. Taps was played once again to honor the missing soldiers. The Air Force ROTC program continues to encourage the community to come out and witness the vigil at any time throughout the proceedings on Veteran’s Day each year.

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A service never forgotten