The time and dates of the vigil have been corrected below
For 24 hours, dozens of University of Virginia Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets will keep vigil for the missing and captive as part of the corps’ annual Veterans Day ceremonies.
The vigil will begin at 1600 hours — known to civilians as 4 p.m. — on Nov. 11 and end at the same time on Nov. 12, culminating in the annual corps ceremony with an address by U.S. Air Force Col. Michael S. Hough, commander of the Air Force ROTC Detachment 890.
Detachment 890 is one of the largest ROTCs in the nation and includes cadets from UVa, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Liberty University and James Madison University.
The vigil at the McIntire Amphitheater is a tradition among UVa cadets, but this year it will exclude the traditional 21-gun salute usually performed by the color guard from local American Legion Post 74.
“In consultation with Col. Michael Hough, the decision was made not to include the 21-gun salute at this year’s Veterans Day event in order to avoid class disruptions due to noise,” said Wes Hester, a UVa spokesman.
UVa officials said the ceremony also will eschew amplified music to further minimize disruption to nearby classrooms.
The changes do not detract from the solemnity of the ceremony, cadets say. While Memorial Day honors those who died for their country, Veterans Day celebrates all who serve and served. It is the UVa cadets’ choice to specifically honor those who never returned.
According to a Department of Defense agency, more than 82,000 Americans remain missing in action from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War and the most recent conflicts.
“The tradition of honoring the prisoners of war and the missing in action, their sacrifice and their service, is something we should never let die,” said Cadet 1st Class Cameron Greer, of the U.S. Air Force ROTC. “It’s just as important today as the first time. For many of us, it is the recognition that we have secure jobs now that were paid for by those who came before.”
For Cadet 3rd Class Anna Lineham, also of the Air Force ROTC, the ceremony honors those who have not returned, as well as the family and community in which she grew up as the daughter of an Air Force officer.
“I signed up because I want to participate, but at same time it’s important to be involved in something that the rest of the community can see,” Lineham said. “We’re upholding a tradition, and that’s something that UVa students understand. UVa is all about tradition and this is ours.”
Lineham and Greer had different reasons for joining the ROTC, but they agree on its importance and its measure of impact on their lives.
Lineham grew up in the military, moving from base to base where her father’s career took the family. She found a home in the other military families even while she moved.
“I’m not sure I could settle down in one spot for the rest of my life, and I like the idea of having that tight-knit community of military and military families right off the bat when I get out of school,” she said. “There is security in knowing that there is a job waiting for me when I graduate.”
Greer has fewer attachments to the military — though his grandfather was a U.S. Army paratrooper — but he likes the structure, the dedication to a goal and the idea of a job upon graduation.
“I first thought about ROTC when I saw this group of people coming back from physical training and they seemed to have a purpose,” Greer recalled. “I liked the idea of the structure, the purpose and having a plan. That appealed to me. And I like the idea of having a job, a place to go when I graduate. [ROTC] just fit me.”
Veterans Day in the U.S. coincides with similar holidays across the world that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. The war ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Originally known as Armistice Day, the holiday was renamed at the request of U.S. veteran organizations in 1954.
The UVa ceremony has been held for more than a decade.