September 8, 2009 — Cadets from all three branches of the University of Virginia ROTC program will hold a 'round-the-clock vigil for American service members held as prisoners of war or reported missing in action. The event starts Sept. 14 at 1:30 p.m. on the north steps of the Rotunda.
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The annual vigil, in which cadets and midshipmen from U.Va.'s Army, Air Force and Navy ROTC programs march in half-hour shifts during a 24-hour period, will end with a ceremony Sept. 15 at 2:30 p.m.
David N. Harker, an outreach coordinator for the Virginia Department of Veterans' Services and a Vietnam War veteran, will speak at the concluding ceremony on "Standing up for American Ideals of Liberty and Justice for All."
A Lynchburg native, Harker was captured by the Viet Cong after being wounded in combat in Quang Tin province in South Vietnam on Jan. 8, 1968. His family was notified eight days later that he was missing in action and then told on March 12, 1968, that he was a prisoner of war. He was held for five years before his release on March 5, 1973.
The ceremony is also scheduled to include remarks from Col. Daniel DeBree, commander of the Air Force ROTC unit at U.Va.; an exhibition drill team performance; a 21-gun salute; and a fly-over of four F-15Es from the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, which will close the ceremony following "Taps." The F-15E fly-over will be led by Major James Gresis, a 1996 graduate of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Local veterans and members of the Charlottesville/Albemarle American Legion Post 74 have been invited to the ceremony. This year's ceremony is open to the public and sponsored by the Arnold Air Society, a professional and service organization for Air Force ROTC cadets.