Today is POW-MIA Recognition Day and Americans across the country will pause to honor those U.S. servicemembers that are either prisoners of war or still missing in action.
The day is one of six in which Congress mandates the flying of the POW-MIA Flag; the others days are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
The American Legion is committed to achieving a full accounting of all POW-MIAs from all war eras. This means returning living POWs, the repatriation of their remains, or finding convincing evidence of why neither is possible. Resolution No. 288, adopted in 1985 during the 67th National Convention in New Orleans, calls for designating a POW-MIA empty chair at all official Legion meetings as a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW-MIAs still unaccounted for.
The Legion’s commitment to this issue was re-emphasized in 2012 during the 94th National Convention in Indianapolis. Resolution No. 78 states that “The American Legion remains steadfast in our commitment to the goal of achieving the fullest possible accounting for all U.S. military personnel and designated civilian personnel missing and unaccounted for from our nation’s wars.”
The following is a suggested POW-MIA Remembrance Service to be used at American Legion meetings, banquets, luncheons or memorial gatherings in conjunction with the POW-MIA flag draped over an empty chair. The service can be adopted or modified appropriately. Members should remove their caps during this service.
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. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and imprisonment.
Before we begin our activities, we pause to recognize our POWs and MIAs.
We call your attention to this small table which occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs.
We call them comrades. They are unable to be with their loved ones and families, so we join together to pay humble tribute to them, and to bear witness to their continued absence.
The table is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.
The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their 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 the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep faith, while awaiting their return.
The red ribbon on the vase represents an unyielding determination for a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us.
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 insure our freedom.
Let us pray to the Supreme Commander that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks.
Let us remember - and never forget their sacrifice.
May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.