Campus Life

Penn State to host Prisoner of War/Missing in Action vigil Sept. 17

Annual remembrance ceremony at University Park to honor America’s prisoners of war and those missing in action

On National Prisoner of War / Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Recognition Day on Sept. 20, Penn State ROTC hosted its annual POW/MIA remembrance ceremony and vigil on Old Main lawn at the University Park campus. Credit: Michael Martin Garrett / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will host its annual 24-hour Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Ceremony beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, on Old Main lawn on the University Park campus. 

The event, which coincides with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, is free and open to the public. Military veterans and those with family members serving in the U.S. military are invited to attend.  

“The vigil serves as a way for us to remember, collectively, that there are service members who still have not returned home,” said Eugene McFeely, Penn State’s senior director for veterans affairs and services and chair of Penn State’s Military Appreciation Committee. “The vigil reminds us all that each day, and every day, we must do all that we can to account for our missing service members and show that, until they return, they are not forgotten.” 

The joint-service vigil will begin with an opening ceremony, which includes a 21-gun salute by members of the American Legion and a performance of taps. The event also will feature a missing man table ceremony — which symbolizes those who answered our nation’s call to serve and were not able to return home — as well as speakers and performances by the Wild Blue Yonders, Penn State Air Force ROTC’s a cappella group.

The American flag will be lowered to half-staff and the POW/MIA flag raised to half-staff to honor all POWs and MIAs. Beginning at 4 p.m., Honor Guards and ROTC cadets will protect the missing man table for 24 hours until the vigil is complete on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Nearly 150 to 200 cadets and midshipmen from the Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC programs at Penn State will be in attendance; however, in the instance of severe weather, the event will be moved inside to Freeman Auditorium inside the HUB-Robeson building.

“It feels great to be back in person for the event this year, as last year was virtual to support the health and safety of the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Luke Juriga, event organizer and Air Force ROTC cadet. “This is a time to honor our alumni and all service members — it’s important to take time to think about those that are POW/MIA and appreciate their sacrifice.” 

Hosted annually by the Harry R. Armstrong Squadron, Penn State Air Force ROTC’s chapter of the Arnold Air Society, the vigil has been held at Penn State for more than 35 years and was originally started by Penn State Vietnam veterans to pay tribute to service men and women who went missing during combat or who were taken as prisoners of war.

Military appreciation at Penn State

Penn State has a longstanding and proud tradition of serving the men and women of our military through education benefits, resources, support and more. This year, the Pennsylvania National Guard will be recognized with a series of campus events, including a football game, Veteran’s Day ceremony, speaker series and more. Visit to learn more.  

In addition, supporters can still purchase Seats for Servicemembers tickets to be donated to military members to attend the Nov. 20 military appreciation football game by clicking here or by calling 1-800-NITTANY, Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets for the Seats for Servicemembers program are only $35 per service member.

Last Updated September 22, 2021