Former Prisoner of War Speaks to BYU ROTC Cadets on Veterans Day

PROVO, Utah – Dec 09, 2021 – On November 11, 2021, the BYU Air Force and Army ROTC at the BYU Marriott School of Business commemorated Veterans Day through a wreath-laying ceremony and presidential review. The ROTC also presented the Patriots Award, a BYU ROTC award which recognizes an individual who exemplifies qualities of leadership and service, to Lt. Colonel Jay Hess, an Air Force veteran who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. 

The wreath-laying ceremony took place in the Reflection Room of the BYU Wilkinson Student Center, which displays a monument to fallen soldiers who attended BYU. At the beginning of the ceremony, political science major Kray Jubeck, an Air Force cadet from Tampa, Florida, and exercise science major Dillan Rowley, an Army cadet from Provo, read the names of the fallen soldiers. Attendees then observed a moment of silence as the flag was lowered to half-mast. 

The laying of the wreath ceremony followed. Hess, President Kevin J Worthen, Colonel Frederick D. Thaden and LTC Seth Miller participated in the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, the cadets and veteran attendees congregated outside on Brigham Square for the presidential review, an annual ceremony where the cadets demonstrate what they’ve learned in training over the last year. Hess addressed the cadets as they stood in formation to listen to his words. 

Hess spoke about his capture and time spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He shared that he remained loyal to his country, even while experiencing immense hardship. He reflected on his own joyous reunion with his family in March 1973 but acknowledged the sacrifice of soldiers who never had the chance to reunite with their loved ones.

He also observed that this year is the centennial anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument in Washington, DC. Hess commented that the monument represents the sacrifice of all patriots who love their country. “Freedom is for those willing to fight for it,” he told the cadets. “Stay honorable. Stay courageous. We need people in this country who are willing to fight for freedom and who are willing to do so with faith.”

Hess’s thoughts touched the cadets at the event. “Lt. Colonel Hess always stayed true and maintained his integrity. He never forgot what he stood for, and he never yielded to the seemingly insurmountable abusive pressure to denounce his country,” says Derek LeSueur, an Air Force ROTC cadet from Somerville, New Jersey, majoring in Mandarin Chinese. “After listening to his speech, I felt a renewed desire to honor great men like Lt. Colonel Hess by conducting myself with the same personal morals in and out of uniform. 

“As I thanked him personally for his words following the ceremony, he told me to make the world a better place through my service in life, to keep choosing to be an example for good, and to never give up,” LeSueur continues. “Hearing these words come from a man with his experiences and humility was life changing.”

Following his remarks, Hess joined Worthen, Thaden, and Miller to conduct a presidential review of the troops. The group walked around the perimeter of the square, surveying the cadets who stood at attention. 

Both the wreath-laying ceremony and the presidential review were unforgettable experiences for the cadets in attendance. “Nothing compares to standing at attention in dress blues with the somber sound of Taps playing as the most profound sense of patriotism, gratitude, and honor fills your soul,” LeSueur says. 

Lt. Colonel Jay Hess speaks to BYU Air Force and Army cadets on Veterans Day. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
Lt. Colonel Jay Hess received this year's Patriots Award from the BYU ROTC. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
Lt. Colonel Jay Hess speaks to BYU Air Force and Army cadets on Veterans Day. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
Hess speaks to BYU Air Force and Army cadets on Veterans Day. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
Air Force cadet Derek LeSueur and Army cadet Dillan Rowley present Hess with the Patriots Award. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
Air Force cadet Derek LeSueur and Army cadet Dillan Rowley present Hess with the Patriots Award. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
BYU Air Force ROTC cadets stand at attention as they listen to Hess's remarks. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
BYU Air Force ROTC cadets stand at attention as they listen to Hess's remarks. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert