Next time you attend a game at the Costello Sports Complex, keep an eye out for a
folding chair with a very important job. A Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Chair of Honor, unveiled this month during a ceremony in the Hill Gym, sits empty at the entrance during sporting events as a reminder of soldiers who have not returned home.
In a fitting detail, the ceremony took place on September 16th—National POW/MIA
Recognition Day is held on the third Friday in September each year. Brenda Lopez, president of the Husky Veterans student group and a Marine Corps veteran, hosted the event, beginning with a reverent reflection.
The bleachers were dotted with motorcycle jackets and vests, a sign that Rolling
Thunder had rolled in. A POW/MIA awareness and veterans support organization, Rolling
Thunder has donated these chairs of honor to public spaces across the country.
Placing a chair of honor on campus has been a goal of Husky Veterans past and
present, and Lopez brought the project home this year with the Veterans Services team.
Cindy DeCosta, associate director of student financial services and a member of Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 Maine, shared the history of the POW/MIA issue and chair during the ceremony.
Community was top of mind at the event, with guests from across the university
lending their support. University President Jacqueline Edmondson spoke about the importance of the POW/MIA issue and noted the collaboration between members of USM’s Husky Veterans, Veterans Services, Osher School of Music, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and Athletics, among others.
School of Music director Alan Kaschub provided his trumpet services for Taps, and
student Kaleigh Hunter sang the national anthem a capella as ROTC students posted the
colors. Veterans shared reflections and memorial readings, among them Robert Placido, vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University of Maine System, and Camden Ege, assistant director of veterans services at the University of Southern Maine.
World War II veteran and proud Mainer Leon Tanguay was seated front and center;
Tanguay spent nine months as a prisoner of war in Germany before being liberated in 1945
and making his way back home to Sanford. Rolling Thunder members on motorcycles
escorted Tanguay and family to campus and, parking their bikes in an impressive herd outside, made their way into the gym to lend support. The sun outside provided a bright backdrop for the solemn procession.
Following the ceremony, guests gathered in classic veteran fashion—over a cup of
coffee. Vets ranging in age from 28 to 98 shared stories and memories. The chair served as a reminder amid the social gathering, holding in quiet significance the weight of those not present.
Their stories and memories live on, shared by family members and friends, now to be
brought to the attention of spectators attending a game at the University of Southern Maine.