Air Force ROTC and decorated military guests took part in TCU’s 28th annual Prisoner of War and Missing in Action day of remembrance last Thursday.
POW/MIA recognition day is a national military day of remembrance for the men and woman who were prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.
“Today is an important day because it’s our day to remember those who were willing to sacrifice themselves for us, for our freedom and men and woman overseas,” said Kristen Bumgardner, a senior history major at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“They could be the prisoners of war or those who are still missing in action and they endure terrible cruelties overseas to make sure that we still enjoy going to a good school, living free and not having to worry about things like that happening to us,” she said.
TCU's Air Force ROTC commemorated the day with three events, starting with a 24-hour flag guarding vigil, followed by the cadets running the American flag and the POW/MIA flag around campus for six hours continuously.
Gabbi Dougherty, a junior political science major, said the events were completely voluntary and the majority of the cadets signed up for over 24 hours worth of 15-minute shifts.
The day concluded with an annual remembrance ceremony in Robert Carr Chapel followed by the lowering and presentation of the flags. Two-time guest speaker and 7-year Vietnam POW survivor Lt. Col. Jerry Singleton spoke at the ceremony, sharing his experience as a prisoner of war.
Singleton said being in the armed forces brings with it the risk of injury, disability and even death.
After Singleton graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1962, he was sent to Southeast Asia, where he was assigned to the Royal Thai Air Base. The air base was located in northern Thailand in order to conduct flying rescue missions over North Vietnam.
On Nov. 6, 1965, during a rescue mission over North Vietnam, Singleton was shot down and captured. He was held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for more than seven years.
“This will sound strange, but that time as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam was probably the Lord’s greatest gift to me short of salvation," Singleton said when asked about his experience as a POW in North Vietnam. "It was a time when he loved me enough to give me what I needed instead of what I wanted. I was going to try to be the world's greatest fighter pilot. Instead he put me behind bars in a terrible condition with some one the world's really greatest fighter pilots and I got to rub elbows and learn what I never would have learned any other way.”
Members of the Air Force ROTC said the POW/MIA Remembrance ceremony is an important day to pay their respects to the men and woman in the military who sacrificed their lives to protect U.S. citizens.
“The ceremony. which honors prisoners of war and those service members who are still missing in action, is important because as military members today we wear the uniform and we wear it with pride and we represent American values,” Lt. Col. Jara Lang said.
The ceremony concluded with the presentation of the flag to Singleton. As the flag was handed to Singleton, taps began to play and he held the flag tight to his chest.
“We have a country like no other, and it’s worth every bit of effort—including your life—to preserve it,” Singleton said while holding the flag.