Cadets and midshipmen from the University of Virginia’s ROTC units will hold a 24-hour vigil to remember American prisoners of war and those missing in action, starting Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the McIntire Amphitheater.
The vigil, in honor of Veterans Day on Sunday, will conclude Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. with a ceremony honoring veterans. Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Daniel M. Dick will be the keynote speaker at the event, which also will include a 21-gun salute.
The veteran’s ceremony will feature a joint color guard, a flag-folding ceremony and a missing man joint table ceremony, a traditional POW/MIA ritual in which cadets and midshipmen set a table with symbolic items for those who are missing. The event will also include members of the Charlottesville and Albemarle Post No. 74 of the American Legion, who will provide the 21-gun salute. A quartet of cadets and midshipmen will sing the national anthem.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 82,000 Americans remain missing in conflicts from World War II to the present.
“The opportunity to remember and honor all the veterans who have served before us is a true honor and personal inspiration,” said Air Force Cadet Andrew Walters, a UVA fourth-year mechanical engineering major and an organizer of the annual event. “The sacrifices that men and women in the military make each and every day are very easy to forget because they handle it with such grace and selflessness, but they are what allows us to enjoy the freedoms we have here at home. Soldiers serving overseas currently, those who have served previously, and especially those who have not returned home, deserve our greatest thanks and remembrance.”
Ninety-six cadets and midshipmen will participate in the vigil, in groups of four rotating every hour, silently marching throughout the duration. The vigil will also feature a display of service flags, including the POW/MIA flag.
Approximately 300 cadets and midshipmen will participate in Tuesday’s veterans’ ceremony.
Dick, the keynote speaker, was the director for requirements and integration at the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, participating in the Department of Defense resource allocation process. He received his Air Force commission through the ROTC program at Virginia Tech in 1970, served as an F-4 and F-16 instructor pilot and as an aide and special assistant to commanders at Tactical Air Command and Air Combat Command, respectively. He was a command pilot with more than 3,600 flying hours, including 155 combat hours and 51 missions over Iraq.
“We hold this vigil to give ourselves and our fellow students an opportunity to recognize and reflect on serving others and sacrifice,” Walters said. “It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of these veterans and serve our country in the United States military.”