ROTC honors POWs

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Sep 152011
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

Everyone has a story, but not everyone escapes the battlefield to tell it.

A silence fell upon 160 members of the Air Force ROTC program Thursday in the Monfort Quad in remembrance of those untold stories. That silence was then broken by the blasts of a 21-gun salute ringing out in memory of those fallen soldiers.

“It’s a risk, and it could happen to any of us,” said Jennifer Foster, a wing commander with the University of Northern Colorado ROTC program, which partners with CSU.

The annual ceremony celebrates the lives and raises awareness of those service men and women who have been prisoners of war or who have gone missing in action. The UNC program partnered with the CSU ROTC to form the 90th Detachment.

The program has existed at CSU for 60 years.

The ceremony was intended to pay tribute to three groups of people: those who have been a POW/MIA, those who intend to serve in the military where it could become a reality and those in the community who may not know, Foster explained.

Clearing skies quickly were overrun by stormy conditions immediately following the nearly 10-minute, silent

ceremony. Shortly after the 21-gun salute and the flag raising, the ceremony was driven into a nearby lecture hall.

Lt. Col. John Paolino, a Vietnam veteran who graduated from UNC and served in the Air Force from 1959 to 1981 shared several stories from POWs. Though never captured himself, he has known many POWs who have been held for years at a time.

“I hope to show people a better understanding of what it was these people used as inner strength,” he said before his presentation.

In addition to a sense of faith and determination, “one has to have a sense of humor, even in the darkest of times,” he said.

After he concluded his speech, the ceremony moved back outdoors for the remembrance and signature cage-portion of the event.

For 24 hours, someone will remain in the camouflaged cage in remembrance of those who spend thousands of days in excruciating and miserable conditions. The ceremony will conclude Friday at 5 p.m. at the Lory Student Center Plaza with a retreat and military salute.

“This part of the ceremony reminds us that there are people every day that give their life for our freedom,” said Tanesha Johnson, a senior business management and marketing major and public affairs officer for the CSU ROTC.

The annual program’s attempt to add perspective to the thousands of sacrifices made each day appeared to resonate with those cadets in attendance, including those unsure of what field they want to pursue.

“They made a difference, and they suffered something greater than themselves,” said Sandra Ornelas, a freshman psychology major. “It’s something beyond you, and it has made me feel more like a patriot.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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