ROTC honors veterans with vigil

by Mickie Barg

In conjunction with Veterans Day, members of the University ROTC posted Old Glory and the POW/MIA flag inside the Armory gym Wednesday to open a 24-hour candlelight vigil in honor of fellow soldiers who are missing in action or have been taken as prisoners of war.
Retired Army Air Corps Lt. Dick Carroll, 78, spoke of his experiences in World War II as part of the opening ceremonies.
“My experience is one little part of a great big war,” said Carroll, a former prisoner of war in Hungary and Germany.
Carroll, a co-pilot on a B-24 bomber that was shot down over Hungary, bailed out of the diving plane only to be shot in the chest and beaten when he reached the ground.
He noted that 70 percent of combat personnel in his bombing crew never returned from their missions.
He also recalled that while being transported from the Hungary to the German prison camp, Carroll and fellow prisoners, carrying a man who had lost a leg, were pelted with bricks and cobblestones, hit with bicycles and spit upon by angry citizens as they rode passenger trains and streetcars to their next destination.
Carroll said he endured starvation, bitter cold and interrogation during the 11 months he spent in the prison camps. The bullet that greeted him on Hungarian soil is still lodged in his heart, he said.
“Today is Veterans Day and the 80th anniversary of the end of World War I,” Carroll said. “MIA status is not just from Vietnam; it goes back to World War I, World War II and others.”
The vigil, sponsored by the General Lauris Norstad Squadron of the Arnold Air Society — a professional honorary service organization for the Air Force ROTC cadets — honors the great sacrifices made by members of all armed services.
It also intends to draw attention to the realities of war and increase public awareness of what ROTC programs contribute to the University, in addition to serving as a means of improving relations between the different ROTC programs.
Following Carroll’s speech, Jana Barrett, director of operations for the society, read an anonymous poem entitled, “What is a Veteran?”
“America has many who take liberty and freedom for granted,” she read, “because there will always be a veteran to step forward to defend her against all her enemies, whomsoever — and be forgotten.”
University ROTC cadets from all military branches will march two at a time in one-hour shifts in front of the flags and memorial candle, which will stand outside the Armory for 24 hours.
The vigil will end in a closing ceremony today at 5:15 p.m. with a performance by the University Air Force ROTC Eagles Rifle Drill Team.