This Monday, residents across the nation will be celebrating the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have served to preserve the nation’s freedom.
Though Veterans Day is a celebration of all members of the armed forces, this holiday weekend, the Bishop Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, veterans all, are remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and never returned home from foreign conflicts.
VFW Post No. 8988 Adjutant Roger Peterson said the post is hoping to raise awareness about servicemen and servicewomen who were captured as prisoners of war or went missing in action.
Peterson said this week that it was recently brought to the post’s attention that many in the local communities are not familiar with the POW/MIA flag that is often flown alongside Old Glory. “I was shocked when Dan Young brought this up at one of our meetings,” Peterson said.
The black POW/MIA flag was created by the National League of Families in 1971 as a symbol to recognize servicemen and servicewomen who went missing in action or captured during the Vietnam War.
On Aug. 10, 1990, the 101st Congress recognized the flag and designated it “as a 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 for their families and the nation.”
Though the flag was initially introduced to show support for Vietnam POWs and MIAs, it has become recognized as a memorial to all service personnel from all wars.
“As far as I’m concerned, the POW/MIA flag is a new flag that came out in Vietnam, but it represents everyone, from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, all the way up,” Peterson said.
The VFW and American Legion honor fallen service personnel with the flag, and with a special display at Veterans Day, Memorial Day and other events.
The display consists of a single, small table with a white table cloth and empty chair. On the table is a plate, an inverted glass and a vase with a red rose. According to Peterson, the singlee, small table symbolizes the fragility of one prisoner against the enemy and the white table cloth represents the purity of the intention of the service personnel. The single rose symbolizes the blood shed in sacrifice and a red ribbon tied around the vase represents the friends and family who kept faith. A lemon slice is included to represent the bitter fate of the POWs and MIAs and salt is sprinkled on a plate, symbolizing “the countless tears shed” by loved ones, Peterson said. The inverted glass is placed on the table as a reminder that many are unable to raise their glass and a single candle is lit as a reminder that there is always hope that the missing may be returned home.
And finally an American flag is draped over the empty chair “so that we may never forget the supreme sacrifice,” Peterson said.