Today is POW/MIA Recognition Day.
This is a picture of the POW/MIA White Table. It’s a display that’s often set up at military or veteran functions, and a ceremony is frequently performed along with it. I know a lot of civilians haven’t been exposed to it, but I’ve been surprised at the number of military members and veterans who aren‘t very familiar with it, either, so I wanted to explain a little about it.
It’s not just done as a way for us to remember those who have been captured or gone missing, but also as a way to reinforce that thought in the minds of those who are yet to experience it. You see, there are few things that those prisoners and missing members can cling to, and one thing that keeps their hopes up is knowing that they will always be remembered and their compatriots will never give up until they are found and brought home. The more we display our commitment to them, the stronger that hope may be.
The script below is from the ceremonies my VFW Honor Guard in Ava, Missouri performed at schools and many functions around town, and it explains the items displayed on the table. The picture frame holds this script also, as an explanation for static displays when the ceremony wasn’t performed.
POW/MIA WHITE TABLE
Those who have served, and those currently serving, in the uniformed services of the United States are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. Throughout the history of our country, many of our comrades have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their loved ones and to defend the freedom that we hold so dear. Countless others have been taken captive by enemies, or have become unaccounted for in the heat of battle. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy the daily pleasures of our freedom and our way of life, there are others who have endured, and may still be enduring, the agonies of pain, deprivation, and internment. They are known as POWs – Prisoners Of War, and MIAs – Missing In Action. They are the ones we honor with this ceremony.
Your attention is called to the table in front of you. The table is small and set for only one, to represent the frailty of one lonely individual against many oppressors. REMEMBER.
The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of the fighting person’s intentions when he or she responds to our country’s call to arms. The napkin is black, representing the sorrow of captivity. REMEMBER.
The chair is empty, representing those who cannot be with us. REMEMBER.
A slice of lemon is placed on the plate to remind us of our comrades’ bitter fate. REMEMBER.
The salt sprinkled on the plate is symbolic of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait for the return of their loved ones. REMEMBER.
The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our country, and also reminds us of the families and friends of our missing comrades, who keep the faith while awaiting their return. The yellow ribbon represents the ribbons displayed by the thousands of people who demand, with unyielding determination, a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us. REMEMBER.
The glass is inverted, for they are not here. REMEMBER.
The single white candle is indicative of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation. The flame burns freely to remind us of the freedom for which our comrades fell – the freedom that burns within all of us as we continue the march. REMEMBER.
The flag of the United States of America, symbol of our country, our faith, and our patriotism, stands for the total commitment and sacrifice made by our comrades. The POW/MIA flag reminds us that although many of our comrades have departed us physically, they remain in our hearts and in our minds, they are not forgotten, and we will not rest until all are accounted for. REMEMBER.
Please take a moment of silent reflection in honor of our missing comrades. To all POWs and MIAs…past, present, and future…you are not forgotten so long as there is one left in whom your memory remains. WE WILL REMEMBER.