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Annual ROTC VeteranUs Day Vigil Pays Tribute to Missing Soldiers

Arifur Rahman -- The Tech
With American and POW flags flying at full mast in the background, Ben Davis '00 of ROTC performs Veteran's Day service Wednesday.

By Dan McGuire
Executive Editor

As the sun dipped below the horizon, Air Force ROTC cadets and Navy ROTC midshipmen gathered yesterday afternoon in front of Briggs Field to conclude their day-long vigil in remembrance of prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

As Samuel H. Thibault '00 played taps, cadets lowered the American flag and the black POW/MIA flag that had been flying from the Briggs Field flag pole since 4:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and carefully folded them.

The ceremony capped off a day of remembrance which included an information booth in Lobby 10 as well as a speech by Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Sheila E. Widnall '60, former secretary of the Air Force.

Widnall encourages cadets

"These warriors were our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons during their time of action" they were taken prisoner by the enemy or simply disappeared and are left on the rolls with their locations listed as unknown, Widnall said.

America has a duty to resolve these cases, she said, and it is pursuing those cases aggressively both through its own agencies and in its cooperation with other nations. "America has not forgotten about its POW's and MIA's," she said.

The aim is to provide a final answer to families who have a relative missing in action and are living in a painful limbo. "They hope the answer will someday come. They also know that the news can tell them that their family member paid the ultimate price," she said.

However, not all of those answers have yet been delivered, and in the mean time it is important that those who are missing be remembered. "I firmly believe that your vigil is making a difference," Widnall said. "Through your vigil you are remembering POW's and MIA's in the way that they would want to be remembered - with dignity and respect."

In addition, "veterans who pass your way will look at you with a special pride. They realize that it is only by the grace of God that they were not among" those lost, Widnall said. "You are not only saying that POW's and MIA's will not be forgotten, but that [veterans] will not be forgotten."

Vigil expands this year

Sixty Air Force ROTC cadets and 12 Navy ROTC midshipmen participated in this year's ceremony, said Ken G. Iwamoto '99, who coordinated the event. "We organize this every year. In the past it's been all services; this year it's been just the Navy and the Air Force," he said.

"Veteran's Day is a day that is forgotten sometimes. I want people to remember it," Iwamoto said.

The event is to "honor those that have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Air Force ROTC Wing Commander Sumit Agarwal '98.

"It's an important thing to do," said Ashley B. Clayborne '99, who manned the information booth in Lobby 10. "It's important to make our presence known."

There was also a symbolic significance to having the information booth in Lobby 10; its walls are carved with the names of MIT alumni who gave their lives during a time of war.