A 24-hour vigil will begin late Thursday afternoon, Nov. 10,  at the University of St. Thomas to honor Veterans Day and Americans who are, or were, prisoners of war or missing in action.

The 25th annual vigil has been a tradition since 1987 for the university, its Air Force ROTC Detachment 410, and the campus chapter of Arnold Air Society, a professional and service organization.

This year’s vigil begins with an opening ceremony at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, near the flagpole in the center of the recently enlarged quadrangle on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus.  For the next 24 hours, ROTC cadets will slowly and silently march past the flagpole in remembrance of those who have served and those who never came home.

A closing ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day.

St. Thomas has had an Air Force ROTC detachment since 1948; the year after the Air Force was created.

Bob Powers with the helmet that took a hit on Okinawa's Sugar Loaf Hill.

Planned in conjunction with the vigil is a talk by 87-year-old Bob Powers, of White Bear Lake. Powers, who received three Purple Hearts and won the Navy Cross “for extraordinary heroism,” will discuss his experiences as a Marine during World War II at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam and Okinawa, and later in Korea.

Powers’ talk begins at 5:40 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in Room 100 (the Great Room) of McNeely Hall, located on the southwest corner of Summit and Cleveland avenues.  The talk, free and open to all, is sponsored by the Arnold Air Society.

He still has the helmet he wore on Okinawa’s Sugar Loaf Hill when a bullet tore through it and clipped his head.

A graduate of Mahtomedi High School, Powers was one of four brothers who served in the Marines. Following World War II he earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas in 1949 and became a Marine officer, retiring as a captain after 20 years.  Powers went on to a 43-year career with The St. Paul Companies, and earned a graduate degree in business at St. Thomas in 1998.

A widower with four children, he is one of a small number of athletes his age who still compete in triathlons, events that combine swimming, biking and running.