POW/MIA vigil scheduled for Sept. 16 on Old Main lawn

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s annual 24-hour prisoners of war/missing in action vigil will begin at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, on Old Main lawn at the University Park campus.

The joint-service vigil will begin with an opening ceremony lasting 30 to 40 minutes. The opening ceremony will include a 21-gun salute and missing man table ceremony, as well speakers and performances by Penn State Air Force ROTC’s a cappella group, the Wild Blue Yonders. More than 200 cadets and midshipmen from the Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC programs at Penn State will be in attendance. As part of the ceremony, the American flag will be lowered to half-staff and the POW/MIA flag raised to half-staff to honor all POWs and MIAs.

“The POW/MIA vigil recognizes the POW/MIA’s sacrifice and symbolizes our commitment to our brothers and sisters in arms, and their families, to bring them home, bring them closure, and to make sure we never forget their service and sacrifice,” said Col. Eugene McFeely, the Penn State ROTC joint service coordinator.

The missing man table symbolizes those who answered our nation’s call to serve and were not able to return home. Once the opening ceremony concludes, a lone guard will protect the table for 24 hours until the vigil is complete. During this time, no one is permitted to enter the area surrounding the table.

“The one thing that is unique to our armed forces, and our country, is that we place great emphasis on never leaving our brother and sister service members behind, whether that is recovering wounded from the battlefield, repatriating the remains of our fallen comrades or, in the case of prisoners of war and missing in action, determining their status, and not resting until we bring them home,” McFeely said.

The event is free and open to the public. In particular, military veterans and those with family members serving in the U.S. military are invited to attend. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be moved inside Schwab Auditorium.

Hosted annually by the Harry R. Armstrong Squadron, Penn State Air Force ROTC’s chapter of the Arnold Air Society, the vigil has been held at Penn State for more than 35 years and was originally started by Penn State Vietnam veterans to pay tribute to our country’s service men and women who went missing during combat or who were taken as prisoners of war.

Penn State’s vigil is aligned with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which falls on the third Friday of September each year.

Editor's note: Daniel Cunningham, a Penn State engineering student and Air Force ROTC cadet, contributed to this article. 

Media Contacts: 

Beth Kocher Gormley

Work Phone: 
814-863-1446

Director of Communications, Undergraduate Education

Last Updated September 16, 2016