Harvey Mayhill acknowledged that 24 hours is a long time to stay awake. But the Air Force veteran retorts, saying: “Death is longer. Some of these people have been missing for decades and nobody knows where they are.”
Mayhill, 73, is set for a 24-hour vigil Friday to honor military troops missing in action and prisoners of war.
Alongside Mayhill on Friday will be an empty chair to signify those who have never been found.
The vigil may be the first of its kind in America. An Air Force veteran and advocate for veterans, Mayhill is planning the vigil Friday through Saturday that coincides with national POW/MIA Recognition Day that is observed the third Friday of September. Mayhill will stay awake from 8 a.m. Friday through 8 a.m Saturday.
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“I can do it because it needs to be done,” Mayhill said.
Mayhill will hold the vigil at the Veterans Wall at Glencairn Garden in Rock Hill from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Then he switches to the Fort Mill Veterans Park from 4 p.m. to midnight, then ends the vigil at the Lakeview Memory Gardens north of York, where York County’s monument to veterans killed in action stands.
Fellow members of the Rolling Thunder veterans advocacy group – which has a particular mission for POW/MIA causes – brought up the idea of the vigil to raise awareness and Mayhill volunteered right off the bat. He does not know if people will stand or sit with him. It doesn’t matter.
“Those who have never been found are alone in their graves somewhere and the whole idea is to show that we as a country should do more to find all of them and bring them home,” Mayhill said.
Nationally, tens of thousands of troops from World War II through Iraq and Afghanistan have never been accounted for. Still more were held prisoner.
On Sept. 3, Gov. Nikki Haley awarded the first set of South Carolina Prisoner of War medals to World War II prisoners, and the medals for others wars will soon be awarded.
Friday in Americus, Ga., is a national ceremony for POW/MIA.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065