The BYU Army and Air Force ROTC programs combined their efforts to commemorate the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
To commemorate the event, the ROTC programs held a 24-hour vigil that continues until 7:30 Thursday morning. The vigil included guarding the flag pole just south of the Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building with two cadets present at all times for a full 24 hours.
The services began Wednesday morning as the flag was placed at half mast. The flag ceremony was followed several hours later by a rose ceremony and a three-volley salute, in which three ROTC cadets fired rifles into the air.
Cadet Captain Michael Shields, a junior international studies major from Colorado Springs, Colo., said the event allows ROTC cadets to get in tune with the real purposes of the ROTC programs.
“You’re standing there for 20 minutes, and you have time to meditate about the important things in life: who you love and what you love about them, what makes America special and why you want to keep it that way,” Shields said. “It helps you to dig deep down inside of you and discover what really motivates you.”
While students were encouraged by ROTC faculty to take part in the vigil, participation was voluntary.
“I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Cadet Lieutenant Brett Anderson, a senior from Olive Branch, Mo., majoring in civil engineering.
Anderson has participated in the vigil for four years and said it gives him an opportunity to reflect on other people’s valiant service.
“It allows me to show respect … first of all, to everyone that was killed in Sept. 11, but also everyone that has served since,” he said.
While on guard, the cadets are expected to stand at attention, silent, until relieved from their posts. Each post lasts 20 minutes.
“You would think it’s awkward to stand up there, but the moment I started walking up, just some thoughts came into my mind,” said Cadet Sean Thomas, a junior from Honolulu majoring in statistics. “I thought of Sept. 11 and why I’m in ROTC: to serve other people so that we can continue to live this awesome life and have these benefits for our families.”
For Shields, Sept. 11 also holds special importance, as it was the events in 2001 that inspired him to join the Air Force.
“I went home (after school) that day and stood in my driveway, and I could hear planes taking off from the airport, which was also the Air Force base in our town,” Shields said. “From the sound, they had to be war planes. That gave me a really hard-to-describe sense of security. Ever since then I wanted to be a part of it.”