ROTC cadets plan 22nd annual vigil here tomorrow in honor of Veterans Day, POW-MIAs

Air Force ROTC Detachment 410 will begin the Veterans Day POW-MIA vigil at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11.

ROTC cadets plan 22nd annual vigil here Nov. 11 in honor of Veterans Day, POW-MIAs

An annual 24-hour vigil will begin late in the afternoon of Nov. 11 at the University of St. Thomas to honor Veterans Day and Americans who are, or were, prisoners of war or missing in action.

The vigil has been an annual tradition since 1987 for the university, its Air Force ROTC Detachment 410, and the campus chapter of the Arnold Air Society, a professional and service organization.

This year’s vigil begins with an opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, near the flagpole in the center of the quadrangle on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. For the next 24 hours, ROTC cadets will slowly and silently march past the flagpole in remembrance of those who have served and those who never came home.

The vigil lasts 24 hours.

St. Thomas has had an Air Force ROTC detachment since 1948; the year after the Air Force was created.

Planned in conjunction with the vigil is a talk by David Wheat, Duluth, who will discuss his experiences as a prisoner of war for more than seven years during the Vietnam War.

Wheat will speak at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11 (following the opening ceremony) in the Great Room on the first floor of McNeely Hall, located at the corner of Summit and Cleveland avenues.

A native of Michigan, Wheat grew up in Duluth and graduated in 1963 with a degree in industrial education from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. That year he entered the Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School and received his flight officer wings in April 1965.

The vigil has been an annual tradition since 1987.

That fall, while on his 80th mission over North Vietnam, Wheat and his pilot, Rod Mayer, were shot down northeast of Hanoi while supporting a strike mission against a railroad. He survived and was captured several hours later. A prisoner of war for seven years and four months, he was released in February 1973. Mayer, the pilot, is still listed as missing in action.

After several months of leave, Wheat entered pilot training and earned his pilot wings in 1975. He retired from the Navy, at the rank of commander, in 1984. In the course of his career he received 16 decorations, including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.

The talk, free and open to all, is sponsored by the Arnold Air Society.