November 4, 2010 — Cadets and midshipmen from the three branches of the University of Virginia's ROTC program will conduct a 24-hour vigil honoring prisoners of war, service members missing in action and veterans on Nov. 8 and 9 on the north side of the Rotunda.
The vigil will start at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 and end with a ceremony on the north steps of the Rotunda at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 9. The ceremony will include a keynote address by Paul E. Galanti, former prisoner of war and commissioner of Veterans Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia, a color guard and a fire volley.
"We are holding this vigil and this ceremony to commemorate the prisoners and the soldiers who were missing in action for their service to our country," said Air Force cadet Eva-Marie Etzel, a fourth-year history and foreign affairs major from Manassas who is organizing the program. "We are also honoring all service members, both men and women, who have given their lives and those still living, for their dedication to our country."
The ceremony will open with the national anthem, an invocation presented by Air Force Cadet Arielle Marino of Liberty University, and introductions, followed by Galanti's speech on "Veterans' Contributions to Preserving the Freedoms We Have in America." The ceremony will close with the honor guard from Bolling Air Force Base in Washington conducting a volley of fire – seven rifles firing three rounds each – and "Taps."
During the vigil, cadets and midshipmen from the Air Force, Navy and Army ROTC units will march in half-hour shifts to honor POW/MIAs. Cadets will also post information stations to explain the vigil and why it is important to honor veterans.
Galanti, a U.S. Navy veteran, flew 97 combat missions in Vietnam before his A-4C Skyhawk was shot down on June 17, 1966. He remained a prisoner of the North Vietnamese until Feb. 12, 1973.
Following his release, he was named executive officer of the Navy Recruiting District in Richmond, received a masters' of commerce degree from the University of Richmond and became the commanding officer of the Richmond Recruiting District, where he set recruitment records.
He was a battalion officer at the U.S. Naval Academy's commandant office. After retiring from the Navy, he became the first non-pharmacist executive director of the Virginia Pharmaceutical Association. He was the chief executive officer of the Medical Society of Virginia for nearly six years and then executive director of the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation. He was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame in November 2005.
"This is a reminder to us as cadets of the sacrifice we may be called on to make one day," Etzel said. "The cadets and midshipmen who are graduating this year could easily be deployed in combat situations. This is a good reminder of the dedication required from us for our military service."