ROTC run: ‘This event helps bring attention to the prisoners of war and missing in action’


Sarah Henry/Iowa State Daily

Members of Iowa State Air Force ROTC approach the Memorial Union at the end of their run of those honored through POW MIA. Temperatures reached 93 degrees.

Sara Petersen

Veterans and active soldiers are thanked by community and friends for their service, but there are some soldiers who are not able to come home for that recognition.

The annual POW/MIA Run put on by Iowa State’s Air Force ROTC strives to give recognition and attention to prisoners of war (POW) and those missing in action (MIA). The event is annually observed on the third Friday of September.

The run takes place Friday morning, starting at the steps of the State Capitol in Des Moines and ending in the Gold Star Hall in the Memorial Union. The run is 31 miles long.

“The run is long, but it’s definitely worth it,” said Layne Bender, sophomore in aerospace engineering and student in Air Force ROTC. “It brings awareness to a day that no one really knows about.”

This year, four Naval ROTC students are joining thirteen Air Force ROTC students for the 31 miles.

Sam Beland, senior in hospitality management and student in Air Force ROTC, ran the event last year and said the run gives him and other students a sense of purpose.

“This is not an easy run, but it’s really cool to be involved in it with the other ROTC students,” Beland said. “We run many miles together, and that definitely allows us to get close with one another.”

Not only is the run fairly challenging for the ROTC students in itself, but each year the U.S. flag and the POW flag are carried the entire 31 miles.

“Holding the flags through the entire race can actually be a bit of a challenge,” Bender said. “There’s a lot of drag because of the wind, and your arms can get pretty tired from running and holding the flag up at the same time.”

ROTC students switch holding the flags to help give each other a break throughout the run. Vans also lead and follow behind the students with water and food available to the students.

Collin Harris, junior in aerospace engineering and an organizer of this year’s POW/MIA Run, said this is a special event that is very different than other events ROTC students are involved in throughout the academic year.

“This event helps bring attention to the prisoners of war and missing in action soldiers who are often forgotten about because they are not here with us,” Harris said. “This is a special event that allows us to bond together and help the community remember those soldiers.”