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ROTC Cadets Honor American Soldiers
By Stephanie Bassett in the Utah Statesman
, Wednesday, November 19, 2008
USU ROTC cadets conducted a 24-hour prisoner of war and missing in action tribute that started Monday, Nov. 17, and took place in the middle of the Quad.
Two Air Force cadets marched in formation around the American flag stationed at the center of the Quad. Tyler Labrum, cadet in the Air Force, said they each had 30 minute shifts and many of them, if not all of them, had more than one shift. Labrum said each cadet carried an M1 Garand, a common rifle used during World War II. He said the guns were not loaded and that none of them function anymore.
“The main purpose of this memorial is to remember and honor the POW’s and the MIA’s from all American wars. We want to pay tribute to our American soldiers,” Labrum said.
Labrum said USU had a strong military history and had a very strong ROTC during World War II.
Kirk Smith, Pershing Rifle Company commander, said USU was once one of the leaders in drill and ceremonies, so much so that it was known as the West Point of the West. Smith said there used to be enough cadets to cover the Quad, but there was a reduction of cadets soon after World War II. Pershing Rifles was an organization that was lost because of this reduction, and now they are trying to bring it back. He said they did this same kind of tribute last year and it’s important because it’s a capstone in helping them become a full-fledged company.
“I think this tribute is one of the most spiritual events I’ve ever experienced,” Smith said. “I just hope people will get the hint of how important it is and show appreciation and respect for our soldiers.”
Labrum said this tribute is similar to the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery. He said the Tomb of the Unknown contains remains from unknown American soldiers from previous wars and is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to honor all American soldiers.
Labrum said they are hoping to get more members of the National Society of Pershing Rifles on campus so they can have an official charter at USU again. He said it’s open to all Air Force cadets, Army cadets or Marines, but it only consists of Air Force cadets at the present time.
Smith said training for Pershing Rifles is two hours a week where they practice precision marching and rifle spinning. He said Pershing Rifles is not only involved in this 24-hour tribute, but is also involved in parades, basketball games, football games and other off-campus events as well.
“There are a lot of brave men and women out there to keep us free,” Smith said, “so I think we should all do our part to support and honor them as much as we can.”