Vigil honors prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action

By By Victoria Johnson and By Victoria Johnson

By Victoria Johnson

As the first chill of fall was settling in Sunday night, Presidents’ Circle was dark except for a few lights and hundreds of small white paper bags placed on the walkways-each with a small candle burning inside.

Everything was quiet except for one voice reading out names.

“Bowen, Bower, Bowerman, Bowers?”

This was the candlelight vigil the U ROTC organized to honor unaccounted-for soldiers from the Korean War to the first Gulf War.

ROTC members read in shifts from the list of over 10,000 missing-in-action soldiers.

Forty-five minutes into the reading, Marine Corps Midshipman Samson Leonard, a junior sociology major, was still on the names that began with B from the Korean War.

“I was in awe,” Leonard said after his shift ended. “I had no idea there were that many MIAs.”

They read names until early Monday morning.

Nazrin Baghirova, a graduate student in education from Azerbaijan, happened upon the vigil as she walked home from the Marriot Library.

“It’s a sad story,” she said. “It’s sad to know that it is politics that brings people into conflict.”

Monday afternoon, ROTC hosted several POWs from World War II, including Capt. Gale Patterson, who spoke in the Union Ballroom.

“I was shot down on a memorable Friday the 13th (in 1944),” he said. “I’ll certainly never forget that day.”

Patterson said he was held for seven months with the nine other members of his B-17 crew.

“We never had enough to eat, and it was always cold,” he said of his captivity. “We never had enough blankets-it was just so cold.”

Patterson said he sympathizes with troops in Iraq today.

“Bless their hearts, they’re in a tough situation,” he said. “I think it was a mistake going into Iraq. I think most people would agree with me by now.”

Patterson’s grandson, Steven Klekis, is a sophomore in chemical engineering at the U.

“It’s pretty intense what he went through,” Klekis said. “We can’t take for granted what they did (during World War II).”

Klekis said he has much respect for American troops and is proud of his grandfather.

“I look up to him a lot,” he said. “He’s one of the most generous guys I’ve ever met.”