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.