Lest We Forget - Stafford American Legion Honors POW/MIAs
Legion Post 511 opened a Stafford Council Meeting with a ceremony in conjunction with National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
Members of Stafford’s American Legion Post 511 opened last Monday’s council meeting with a ceremony honoring America’s POWs and those still Missing in Action.
Monday's ceremony, which sets an empty table for one to symbolize America’s commitment to those still in captivity and honor its prisoners of war, is performed by American Legion posts nationwide as part of recognition day activities.
The third Friday of September was desiginated National POW/MIA Recognition Day by Congress in 1998.
The township seal affixed to the council dais was draped in the black and white POW/MIA flag as post members filed into the council chambers and took their place in the audience.
Post Commander Doug Voorhees began the ceremony and was followed by Former Commander Ernie Boerner who narrated the ceremony as individual members were called up to set the table and salute the empty seat that represented missing servicemembers.
One of the first veterans, Mike Sebexen draped another POW/MIA flag over the lone chair.
There are a few different versions of the ceremony, which is comparable to the famous “missing man squadron” flyovers performed by Air Force pilots, according to several different online military and veterans sources.
The general narrative found online for the setting and what each item symbolizes was modified slightly on Monday night. It is as follows:
- The table is set for one. Its small size represents the fragility of one prisoner against his or her suppressors.
- The white tablecloth symbolizes the purity of a soldier’s motives when they answer the call to duty.
- The single red rose in the vase reminds viewers of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones of these Americans who keep the faith awaiting answers.
- The vase is tied with a ribbon that symbolizes the country’s continued determination to account for the missing.
- A slice of lemon on the bread plate reminds viewers of the bitter fate of those captured or missing in a foreign field.
- A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.
- The inverted glass symbolizes their inability to share a meal.
- The empty chair reminds us they are missing.
The ceremony closes with:
- Remember! -- All of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them, for surely, they have not forsaken you. Remember!
- Remember! -- Until the day they come home, Remember!
This was read by Voorhees as a tear-choked Boerner looked on.
At the conclusion of last Monday's ceremony, all Legion members rose, again saluted the table and then marched out to the applause of those gathered.
After the ceremony, Boerner said they had invited Mayor John Spodofora councilmen Stan Rutkowski and Robert Kusznikow, all veterans, to stand with he and Voorhees during the ceremony. "Part of the Legion's philosophy is to recognize veterans that are still in service to their country," he said.
The entire ceremony was broadcast live from the council chambers and can viewed online at http://stafford-nj.pegcentral.com.