Ten steps out. Reflect. Turn. Ten steps back.
One hour per cadet. Twenty-four hours altogether. Rain, shine, snow or hail, they don’t stop.
For more than 30 years, Utah State University’s Air Force ROTC program has hosted a vigil on the Quad where cadets honor prisoners of war and soldier missing in action. Beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, and continuing for 24 hours until Friday at 5 p.m., cadets each march an hour-long shift. Passersby are encouraged to grab a small American flag provided by the ROTC and place it on the Quad in remembrance of their fallen soldier loved ones.
Cadet Ty Johnston, a senior in the program, organized this year’s vigil and said its main goal is to remember fallen soldiers and encourage ROTC cadet to “think deeper about why they want to serve.”
The vigil begins this evening, Thursday, Nov. 7. It’s held annually the Thursday before Veterans Day to “get people thinking about Veterans Day,” Johnston said.
As they walk, cadets are asked to think of one or two names of prisoners of war or missing
in action soldiers close to them.
“It's not the reporter who gives us the freedom of press,” Johnston said. “It's those who
sacrifice their lives and those who are willing to stand up for what they believe in.”
The vigil also invites all Americans to honor fallen soldiers before Veterans’ Day.
“Everyone has a family member or close friend who’s served, and we ask people to remember them, particularly this time of year,” Johnston said.
Johnston said support from the university has always been plentiful.
Utah State has a long tradition of being a military school, he said. The U.S. Army ROTC was so influential in the years prior to World War I that it was known as the
West Point of the West. “The environment that it is brings is such a tradition that we kind of remember those roots,” Johnston.
While military programs are known for their strictness and discipline, Johnston said the vigil encourages cadets to think deeper and be in touch with their emotions.
“A lot of times when we talk about the military, we think of being very stoic, we call it military bearing, you know, no emotion, very plain face, very rigid,” he said. “But on the inside, it's important that they know that they have a brotherhood and a place they can turn to,” he said.
A video of the 2018 vigil is available at facebook.com/chassusu.