BYU ROTC hosts vigil to honor fallen victims and heroes of 9/11

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Gianluca Cuestas
BYU ROTC cadets participated in a 9/11 vigil on Sept. 12, 2016. The vigil included a wreath-laying ceremony, speeches and a rifle salute. (Gianluca Cuestas)

On the day after the 15th anniversary of the attacks on September 11th, members of the BYU community gathered on the south side of the Abraham Smoot Building to pay tribute to people who have fallen and to honor people who have fought to defend our nation.

The 9/11 vigil, hosted by members of the BYU ROTC, started at 6 a.m. Monday as two cadets took the first 20-minute shift standing at the base of the flag. A total of 82 cadets from the Army and Air Force ROTC participated in this year’s vigil.

Around 10 a.m., ROTC members conducted a program that included a wreath-laying ceremony, a rifle salute and a memorial speech. Military members, public service officials, civilians and students were all present. Each person was given a small American flag to place on the embankment behind the HBLL as a way to give his or her personal tribute to those affected by 9/11.

Mitchell Riley, a senior in the Air Force ROTC program, has participated in the vigil for four years. He said the vigil is always a special moment for him.

“It provides an opportunity for me to develop a relationship with the American flag and understand what it means to me,” Riley said. “When cadets stand to guard the flag, they don’t talk, they don’t move. They think about those who have fallen during September 11, those who have fought for our freedom and those who are still fighting today.”

The vigil was also a special experience for senior ROTC cadet Janel Mayfield as she took a shift guarding the flag with her fiancé and fellow ROTC member, Brandon Campbell. The couple stood side by side as they solemnly reflected upon the events of 9/11.

“I thought about how we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants and how far we’ve come since 9/11. But I also thought about what we need to do to continue moving forward,” Hayfield said. “We have a rich tradition in this country, and we need to remain strong.”

Gianluca Cuestas
Former Pentagon employee Ryan Vogel spoke at the vigil. He said everyone can serve their country, regardless of their occupation. (Gianluca Cuestas)

Campbell, a sophomore ROTC cadet, participated in his first 9/11 vigil this year. He said it’s important to recognize the sacrifices people make and to use tragic moments as a way to further unite us as a nation.

“9/11 is a somber day, a time to reflect on the sacrifices that so many people before us have made,” Campbell said. “These sacrifices unified our nation and helped us to find strength in a time of diversity, affliction and sorrow.”

Ryan Vogel is the director of national security at Utah Valley University and a former Pentagon employee. Vogel was the special guest speaker at this year’s vigil.

“9/11 is a day to remember our fallen citizens, fallen soldiers, fallen police officers and fallen firefighters,” Vogel said. “It is also a time to remember our values, what made us strong and what brought us together as Americans.”

Vogel said “public service is a noble endeavor” and that there are many ways to serve our country like the men and women who wear uniforms. This could include working for the government, educating the next generation or helping the growth of the economy.

“We need to rededicate ourselves to serve our country, no matter what our career is,” Vogel said. “We need to be smart, wise and well-rounded to continue moving our country forward.”

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