Amid the flurry of activity over Veterans Day weekend, Kansas University ROTC cadets could be found standing silently for an hour as they paid tribute to fallen soldiers.
From 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Saturday, cadets from the Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC detachments stood guard in front of the university’s three war memorials.
Wearing their service dress uniforms, two cadets at each monument stood at attention as cars and pedestrians passed along Memorial Drive. Cadets were in front of the Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial and Campanile, a World War II memorial.
“It’s a way for us to say thank you to the veterans who have dedicated themselves to something bigger than themselves for the rest of us,” said Kyle Buehler, a junior Air Force ROTC cadet and commander of KU’s Arnold Air Society Squadron. The Air Force ROTC organized the weekend vigil.
The 24-hour vigil entailed 144 one-hour shifts. Cadets quickly filled the slots, even the early Saturday morning ones, said KU sophomore Clinton Eye.
“Everyone feels like it is an important cause,” he said.
Between shifts, cadets met in the Air Force’s assembly room in the basement of the Military Science Building. Eye stayed up throughout the night to make sure cadets received food, coffee and training on what to do.
Eye described Saturday’s 70-plus degree weather as “pretty forgiving.” Last year, temperatures never reached higher than 30 degrees.
For Eye, the most meaningful part of the vigil is the time when veterans return to campus. He recalled a moment last year when a Korean War veteran stopped by the memorial.
“The girl standing guard got really emotional because she could see in the veteran’s face how much it meant to him,” he said.