Col. Leon M. Hoffsette returned to Columbia 27 years after he left to pursue a military career. When he returned, he found a tradition he never experienced as an MU student — the Veterans Day Vigil at the Boone County Courthouse. Today, Hoffsette will officiate the closing program, which began in 1985, a decade after he left Columbia.
“The vigil is organized and executed by the cadets — they get a lot of experience dong this,” Hoffsette said.
Hoffsette, who was a cadet from 1973 to 1975, is now commander and professor of aerospace studies at MU. On Monday night, he arrived at the courthouse square to attend the 18th annual vigil.
In the middle of the square, a wreath leaned against a pedestal adorned with yellow, orange and white flowers, flags and ribbons. One ribbon read, “God bless America.”
“This is a way of bringing Veterans Day to the attention of the community,” Cadet Kate Hewlett said. “Everyone needs to remember.”
Hewlett and fellow cadet Dave Citrin spent two hours marching between the illuminated courthouse war memorials amid drizzling rain Monday night.
“The marching mirrors the Arlington cemetery,” Ericka Boggiano said, referring to the Army’s official ceremonial unit, The Old Guard, which keeps a 24-hour vigil at the cemetery.
Boggiano organized the 24-hour Veteran’s Day Vigil and arranged for the names of 10 veterans to be read every hour, on the hour. The ceremonies will continue today when more than 100 ROTC cadets parade down Eighth Street accompanied by World War II vintage vehicles. The cadets and color guard will proceed to the courthouse, signaling the end of the vigil that started at 11:11 a.m. Monday.
Veterans Day, formerly called Armistice Day, was established in 1919 by Woodrow Wilson in honor of the day and month of the treaty that ended World War I. Congress declared Armistice Day a federal holiday in 1938 and in 1954 Congress renamed the holiday Veterans Day.