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By ROSE WILLIAMS vrw001@latech



Cadets of the Air Force ROTC hosted a 24-hour vigil at 9 a.m. Friday at the Ruston Civic Center and Student Center in honor of troops who are current or former prisoners of war or those missing in action.

The POW/MIA vigil is re-enacted yearly and consists of one student portraying a guard and one portraying a prisoner.

“It is absolutely important to have the vigil because it shows the troops they are not forgotten,” Captain Harriet Hairston, an education officer for ROTC, said. “It also lets the community know people are still making sacrifices.”

This year’s vigil started at the Ruston Civic Center, located at 401 N Trenton St. Due to bad weather, the vigil was moved to the Student Center, Main Floor.

“More people [could] see us now that it was in the Student Center,” Cadet Justin Billot, a sophomore psychology major, said.

Billot said each shift lasts for an hour, and both guard and prisoner are not allowed to speak during this time. All participants are volunteers, and cadets are highly encouraged to volunteer.

“More structured cadets are more likely to be the guards,” Billot said. “Prisoners are mainly portrayed by cadets [who are] more laid back; however, [it] can get tiresome sitting in a prison, and somewhat claustrophobic.”

This is a great way to commemorate POW/MIAs in Iraq and previous wars, Billot said. Non-ROTC members showed support for troops as well.

Holly Talley, president of Silver Wings and a junior political science major, said she shows support for POW/MIAs by passing out yellow ribbons.

Talley said Silver Wings is a civilian service organization that supports the ROTC cadets at Tech and troops in general.

“The yellow ribbons are symbolic to showing support for our troops,” Talley said. “It is a small token to be worn on shirts.”

Not only do students feel the vigil is significant in showing support for troops, but the ROTC educators are proud of the remembrances.

“I like that we have the vigil at Tech and hope to have more ways to honor the troops,“ Hainston said.

Hairston said honoring troops who are POW/MIA is important t.

“I have never personally known someone who has been a [POW/MIA], but my dad fought in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and Panama,” Hairston said.

She said a Vietnam veteran, Ernest Stevens, spoke at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday after the 24-hour vigil concluded.

Hairston said it was an honor to have Stevens, the founder and curator for the Louisiana Military Museum, as the guest speaker for the ceremony.

Stevens was in the Marines for four years and is a Vietnam veteran, Hairston said.

Hairston said, “With the war still going on, people need to know to support the many POW/MIA troops.”

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