Penn State to host Prisoner of War/Missing in Action vigil Sept. 20

September 11, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will host its annual 24-hour Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Ceremony beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, on Old Main lawn on the University Park campus. In the event of severe weather, the event will be moved inside to Schwab Auditorium.

The event, which coincides with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, 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. More than 200 cadets and midshipmen from the Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC programs at Penn State will be in attendance.

The joint-service vigil will begin with an opening ceremony, which includes a 21-gun salute by members of the American Legion and a performance of TAPS. The event will also feature a missing man table ceremony, as well as speakers and performances by the Wild Blue Yonders, Penn State Air Force ROTC’s a cappella group.

“It is important for us to take the time to remember those who went to war on behalf of our nation and have not yet returned as they are either prisoners of war or are missing in action,” said Eugene McFeely, Penn State’s senior director for veterans affairs and services and chair of Penn State’s Military Appreciation Committee. “This ceremony acknowledges our national responsibility to account for those who are POW/MIA and to ensure that they are not forgotten and one day return home.”

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. Beginning at 4 p.m., Honor Guards and ROTC cadets will protect the missing man table — which symbolizes those who answered our nation’s call to serve and were not able to return home — for 24 hours until the vigil is complete on Saturday.

“The POW/MIA vigil gives cadets and midshipman the opportunity to stand next to family, friends and community members to raise awareness for those still missing and remember those who served,” said Grace Kimzey, event organizer and Air Force ROTC cadet captain. “It’s a powerful and unforgettable experience.”

Bracelets, which have been worn as a personal form of remembrance since the 1970s, also will be for sale.

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 service men and women who went missing during combat or who were taken as prisoners of war.

Military appreciation at Penn State

Penn State has a longstanding and proud tradition of serving the men and women of our military through education benefits, resources, support and more. This year's Military Appreciation Week from Nov. 8 to 16 will honor America's “Greatest Generation” with a weeklong series of campus events, including a football game, Veteran’s Day ceremony, speaker series and more. Visit to learn more.

  • solitary rose

    A solitary rose adorns the center of the 'Missing Man Table' at the 24-hour POW-MIA vigil outside Penn State's Old Main. The vigil, hosted by all Penn State ROTC units, corresponds with National POW-MIA Recognition Day.

    IMAGE: Patrick Mansell
Last Updated September 11, 2019