by Shane Thomas
The VSU ROTC began holding a vigil in the outdoor classroom near West Hall on Wednesday to commemorate prisoners of war.
The event was sponsored by Arnold Air Society, an honorary subgroup of the Blazer Corps of Cadets, to raise awareness for POWs and those missing in action.
In the exhibit, an armed cadet stood guard as a cadet was held captive in a cage to simulate conditions of being a prisoner of war.
Students were able to see the exhibit as they walked by and were allowed to ask questions for more information.
“Part of our mission is to raise awareness for prisoners of war and missing in actions, (raising awareness) not only for America but for our allies across the globe that have supported us in our war efforts from World War I up through operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom,” Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Grant Atwell, said. “This is not solely an American remembrance but remembrance for all POWs.”
Roughly 24 cadets, in roles of guard and prisoner were cycled through the exhibit around the clock until this morning. Cadets were not allowed to communicate and were held without food or water during captivity.
“We want to make the campus here at VSU more aware that there are prisoners of war in all armed conflicts—people who haven’t been returned back to the U.S. and those who may still be in capture or may be dead,” Larry Terrell, Cadet 3rd class, said.
Terrell, who spoke briefly before entering the cage, explained his thought process while in captivity.
“I’m anticipating doing a bit of mediation and reflection to realize that this could happen to me one day,” Terrell said. “I was already in the Air Force, and I’m attempting to go back in. I’ll remember the articles of the Code of Conflict: keeping faith in my fellow prisoners, always having faith in God and my country. It’s about having mental toughness for the most part.”
Terrell admits that no one signs up for the armed services to be a prisoner of war but understands that the prospect of war captivity is always a possibility.
“To be frank, I don’t think anyone wakes up and sees their day becoming a prisoner or being captured,” Terrell said. “It’s one of the things we do to serve our country and protect our nation. As with everything, there’s a risk, but we are trained early on that we should still follow orders of personnel in capture.”
Terrell believes the vigil will serve to educate students on the reality many members of the armed forces face during overseas conflicts.
“The long term effect of this vigil will help students who have no military affiliation to realize that this stuff actually happens,” Terrell said. “The hours (in the cage) should represent a longer span of time in which people are held without food or water in inhumane conditions in hostile countries.”