Vigil ex­presses hope for re­turn of ser­vice mem­bers

An­nual event co­in­cides with Na­tional POW/ MIA Recog­ni­tion Day


Spe­cial from the Ne­wark Post

— On Main Street’s Acad­emy Lawn, two ROTC cadets stood at at­ten­tion, ri­fles in hand, silently and solemnly guard­ing the war me­mo­rial that lists the names of Ne­wark­ers killed in World War II, the Korean War and the Viet­nam War.

Work­ing in shifts, the cadets


kept up the trib­ute for 24 hours last Fri­day as part of an an­nual vigil in honor of Na­tional POW/ MIA Recog­ni­tion Day. Mean­while, other cadets ran a con­tin­u­ous loop around down­town while car­ry­ing the POW/MIA flag, and cages rep­re­sent­ing the way some pris­on­ers of war were held were dis­played on the Acad­emy Lawn.

Cadet Capt. Alexander Van Pat­ten, who helped or­ga­nize the trib­ute, said par­tic­i­pat­ing in the guard duty was an honor, and stay­ing up for 24 hours doesn’t even come close to the sac­ri­fice made by sol­diers held cap­tive.

“You might think it would be mo­not­o­nous or painful, but for us, it’s worth it,” the Univer­sity of Delaware ju­nior from Long Is­land, N.Y., said. “When we feel an ache com­ing, we look at the cages in front of us and think about what those peo­ple are go­ing through.”

Nearly 100 cadets from UD’s Air Force and Army ROTC par­tic­i­pated in the cer­e­mony, which was cospon­sored by Veter­ans of For­eign Wars Post 475.

“It’s im­por­tant to raise aware­ness among the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion,” Van Pat­ten said. “It’s not just a thing of the past. It is still an is- sue to­day. There are still ser­vice mem­bers miss­ing.”

The vigil was punc­tu­ated by a for­mal cer­e­mony last Fri­day evening.

Capt. Laura Co­valesky, a UD fac­ulty mem­ber who helps command Air Force ROTC De­tach­ment 128, told the as­sem­bled crowd about how Mary Hoff, whose hus­band Lt. Cmdr. Michael Hoff went miss­ing dur­ing the Viet­nam War, com­mis­sioned the POW/MIA flag in 1971.

“Like a light­house on the dark seas, this flag stood as a sym­bol of hope to fam­i­lies who, like hers, were wait­ing for the re­turn of a loved one from war,” Co­valesky said.

To­day, more than 82,000 ser­vice mem­bers re­main miss­ing in ac­tion, she noted, adding that cer­e­monies like this one help re­mind peo­ple to hold out hope.

“Hope is an as­tound­ing force. Hope is the be­lief – not the wish – but the be­lief and knowl­edge that things will get bet­ter,” she said. “With­out this be­lief, even the strong­est are lost, but with this be­lief, any­thing is pos­si­ble. As long as hope re­mains, there is the pos­si­bil­ity for sur­vival, recovery and clo­sure.”


Capt. Laura Co­valesky, who helps command Air Force ROTC De­tach­ment 128, speaks at a POW/MIA cer­e­mony in Ne­wark as two cadets stand guard at the war me­mo­rial.

Two ROTC cadets run through down­town Ne­wark car­ry­ing the POW/MIA flag.

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