The POW/MIA Table: A Tradition of Remembrance

By Bill Armstrong

LET US REMEMBER THE MEN AND WOMEN PRISONERS OF WAR FROM ALL BRANCHES OF SERVICE THAT ARE TOO OFTEN FORGOTTEN. LET US REMEMBER THEM.

To many military family members, the small, unoccupied dining table is a familiar sight at a dining in or out.  Oftentimes, the table will be set up on a stage or in a dining facility on Veterans Day or National POW/MIA Recognition Day.  No one ever sits at the table, known as the POW/MIA Table – even if every other chair has been taken.  The table is on display to pay tribute to military veterans who cannot dine with the rest of us, due to their sacrifice in defense of freedom.  This table is our way of symbolizing that members of the military are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POWs, short for prisoners of war, or MIA’s, for missing in action.

Each part of the table display has significance.  The table is always set for one and is smaller than other tables.  Its size symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner against his oppressors. The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty. The single red rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and their loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, waiting for answers that may never come.

THE SINGLE ROSE REMINDS US OF THE LOVED ONES AND FAMILIES OF OUR COMRADES IN ARMS WHO KEEP THE FAITH AND AWAIT THEIR RETURN.

The vase is tied with a yellow ribbon, symbolic of our continued determination to account for our missing.

THE RED RIBBON IS TIED TO THE FLOWER VASE WITH A YELLOW RIBBON THAT WAS WORN BY THOUSANDS WHO AWAITED THEIR RETURN. REMEMBER

A slice of lemon on a bread plate is there to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.

THERE IS SALT ON THE PLATE, SYMBOLIC OF THE FAMILY'S TEARS AS THEY WAIT AND REMEMBER.

The glass is inverted to symbolize their inability to share this evening’s toast. Finally, the chair is empty, for they are missing. It is up to us to toast them.

AS WE LOOK UPON THIS EMPTY TABLE, DO NOT REMEMBER GHOSTS FROM THE PAST, REMEMBER OUR COMRADES. REMEMBER THOSE WHOM WE DEPENDED ON IN BATTLE. THEY DEPEND ON US TO BRING THEM HOME. REMEMBER OUR FRIENDS. THEY ARE THE ONES WE LOVE -- WHO LOVE LIFE AND FREEDOM AS WE DO.

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