- In Honor of POW's and MIA's
21 SEP 2012 is POW-MIA Day
Missing Man Table & Honors Ceremony"
In remembrance of those still missing and those who suffered capture, the following is included in all formal military dining events, called a "Dining In" in the Army:
Explanations of the ceremonial table and what we place there:This table set for one is small... It symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner against his oppressors.
The tablecloth is white... It symbolizes the purity of their intentions responding to their country's call to arms.
The single rose displayed in a vase... It reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades in arms who keep faith awaiting their return.
The red ribbon... Tied on the vase, is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn by thousands who bear witness to their determination to demand proper accounting for our missing.
A slice of lemon... Is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.
There is salt... Upon the bread plate symbolic of family tears as they wait.
The glass is inverted... They cannot toast us today.
The chair is empty... They are not here.
Remember all of you who served with them and called them comrades. You who depended on their might and aid and relied upon them.
Do not forsake them.
Pray for them and remember!
1. A small, round bistro table
2. White tablecloth
3. Single place setting, preferably all white
4. Wine glass - inverted
5. Salt shaker
6. Slice of lemon on bread plate with a pile of spilled salt
7. Small bud vase with a single stem red rose
8. RED ribbon tied around the vase
9. Candle - lit
10. Empty chair
On 17 Sep 2010, let us remember every POW we each may know, to include Sen John McCain who spent 66 months years in the Hanoi Hilton. We recognize him, regardless of politicial affiliation, for his service and for the hardships he endured at the hands of a brutal enemy during those long years. If you know a former POW, please relay my gratitude to him for standing tall in times of unimaginable suffering.
The third Friday of September is POW/MIA Remembrance Day. I remember as I grew up, I began becoming aware of the POW/MIA issue. I recall meeting a woman whose husband had not returned from Viet Nam. She kept hope he was still alive and would return one day. Today I couldn’t tell you who she was or if she ever learned anything more but then I found it idealistic for him to still be alive.
Now, I’ve studied POW escapes and of men that survived years in such camps and now that in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was entirely possible for him to be alive. I was merely too young then and Viet Nam seemed like so long before.
Movies such as Rambo II and another by Chuck Norris put the MIA issue into the public view. Many Americans began to step forward and demand action. Municipalities and States began to set aside days of remembrance for those still missing. Veterans’ organizations such as the VFW and American Legion began to push the agenda and eventually our national politicians responded. Congress set aside the first day of remembrance on July 18th, 1979 and they continued to pass resolutions each year until 1995. Since then, it has been an annual proclamation by the President.
In 1990, the 101st Congress passed US Public Law 101-355 which recognized the POW/MIA flag we are so familiar with and designated it “as the symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty fro their families and the Nation.” It is the only flag other than Old Glory to have been flown over the White House and it has flown there every year on the day of remembrance since 1982.
In 1998, the 105th Congress added to this by adding Section 1082 to the Defense Authorization Act. It mandated that it will be flown over 3 war memorials: the Viet Nam, the Korean and the WWII memorials. It also mandates that the POW/MIA Flag be flown over many federal buildings and cemeteries on each of the 6 holidays honoring our veterans, including
Armed Forces Day: a day for us to honor those currently in our military.
Flag Day: this honors Old Glory herself, the living embodiment of our Nation and the US Constitution for which we fight.
Memorial Day: a day for us to remember those that gave their lives to keep us free. This holiday was born in the south when the widows of Confederacy set that day aside to visit the graves of their fallen husbands. Eventually all widows of the Civil War set it aside and it became a national day of remembrance for all who gave all in the protection of freedom.
Independence Day: when we celebrate the freedoms given us by the bravery of many citizen-soldiers in the 18th Century.
Veteran’s Day: a day to thank all of veterans for the sacrifices they made and the risks they took to keep that independence.
And of course on POW/MIA Remembrance Day which we will have on the 17th of September this year. Many think of these days as just another day to have a bar-b-q or to shop, a day off from work, but to our veterans, they have a special significance. Some are days of glory and others days of sadness. I have a tendency to lose my patience when someone who confuses the purpose of Labor Day and Memorial Day but many seem to care to little to know. And I went off on a school district once because my niece was in school on Veterans Day.
The POW/MIA symbol is likewise a confusing issue for some. A few weeks ago my old teammate and I were discussing this as we stopped at a country biker bar and riding the country roads of a neighboring state. He was putting the helmet sticker on his helmet, his first helmet sticker and we thought of how this has become a symbol almost universally used by Harley riders.
There are many different kinds of bikers today but the roots of the motorcycle clubs are veterans returning from the war. I’d bet they sell more Harleys than any car at the PX in Baghdad. But many bikers have missed the boat on why we enjoy riding. Instead they cover themselves up with particular symbols, colors and ideals they don’t understand in a desire to achieve the status symbol of a biker. One of those symbols is the POW/MIA flag.
This is not to say that a biker shouldn’t wear it nor that all bikers miss the boat on its significance but some do wear it for no greater reason than they’ve always seen bikers embrace it. Still others, veterans and non-veterans alike, take up the cause with great gusto. In fact, the best known supporter on this issue is Rolling Thunder. Every year, they ride to Washington DC, to loudly remind the nation and our lawmakers that we still have men overseas from wars finished long ago. In fact, much of my research on the history of this day comes from a webpage of one of their chapters.
To me, it’s a quiet remembrance. A symbol that speaks for itself and reminds me of those who have not yet returned.
I’m proud of the extensive efforts our government and military are making to bring home and identify the remains of Servicemen from past wars. I hope the mistakes made by our government at the end of past wars is never repeated but if it is I’ll be one of those screaming from my bully pulpit, demanding that the issue be corrected.
Today we fight a different kind of enemy but we bring home our Soldiers quickly. It is rare for us to lose a Soldier’s body to the enemy but our enemy is not a nation state. It has neither diplomats nor rulers that would or could negotiate. Today, it is our Soldiers and Marines who make sure that every body comes home.
One of the worst mistakes AQI made in Iraq was kidnapping 4 of our Soldiers. Because they would not risk so much for a few of their own, they never imagined our military leaders would commit so much to finding our men. The campaign had additional consequences in that the house to house searches spreading across strongholds of the enemy also denied them their sanctuaries and captured their men and equipment. An act that was supposed to break our resolve reinforced it. We still search for those Soldiers and will continue to do so until they are found. Perhaps, the enemy has less understanding of us than our average citizen has of them.
In Somalia, over 100 Rangers and Delta Soldiers risked all to ensure that every one on the two downed helicopter crews came home. It is that important that more men gave their lives in that pursuit than were saved in the action to bring them home. And that is something few outside the military can understand. We leave no body behind.
Perhaps it is time for us to tell our legislators to make this day of remembrance permanent, so that it, like President’s day, Valentines Day, Columbus Day and Halloween will be marked on our calendars.
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