A Closer Look at the POW/MIA Remembrance Service

Sept. 21 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Today, there are still more than 80,000 American troops missing in action. The American Legion Family is dedicated to ensuring that America’s POW/MIAs are honored and recognized, not just memorialized.

Legion efforts also focus on the need to account as fully as possible for those still missing, alive, or dead. An important way all Legion Family members create awareness and remembrance for this initiative — while honoring the service of those troops — is by having POW/MIA remembrance services at unit meetings and public events. Strong, united support by all Legion Family members is crucial to bringing all of our heroes home.

A great time to do this is on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which is annually recognized on the third Friday in September. This commemoration is set aside to honor the commitment and sacrifices made by this nation’s prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action, as well as their families. The U.S. president signs a proclamation each year.

9-21 POW-MIA table
POW/MIA ceremony set up. 

Typical items required for a remembrance service:

  • Small table covered with a white tablecloth
  • Plate, fork, knife, spoon, and napkin set up on the table
  • Glass (inverted)
  • Chair placed at plate setting
  • Vase with a single rose in it and a red ribbon tied onto the vase
  • Slice of lemon on the plate and salt sprinkled onto the plate
  • White candle in a holder, lit at the beginning of the ceremony
  • POW/MIA flag draped over another chair in front of the table
  • American flag on the table

What the items represent:

The small table is set for one – symbolizing the fact that our armed forces personnel are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs (Prisoners of War) and MIAs (Missing in Action).

  • The table is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her oppressors.
  • The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
  • The single rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of our missing comrades’ families and friends who keep the faith while awaiting their return.
  • The red ribbon on the vase represents the red ribbons worn on the lapels of thousands who demand with unyielding determination a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us tonight.
  • A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
  • The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
  • The glass is inverted; they cannot toast with us at this time.
  • The chair is empty; they are not here.
  • The candle is reminiscent 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 American flag reminds us that many of them may never return and have paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure our freedom.

3 comments

    • After doing some research, it looks like the original POW/MIA table display as first created during the Vietnam era, and the original display did not include a Bible. It also appears it has been in and out of ceremony scripts over the years and in 2016, it was removed from places such as VA clinics and military installations. However, this is not inclusive for every POW/MIA table out there, many still display the Bible at this time. Hope this helps!

      Like

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