When you walk into Collierville Town Hall to attend a meeting or perhaps to pay a water bill, you may notice a small, round table sitting in the corner of the lobby alcove. The place setting for a missing member of the military serves as a quiet reminder to not forget the men and women who have not returned home. Called “The Missing Man Table,” it is a way military veterans and active services members commemorate POWs (Prisoners of War) or MIAs (Missing in Action).
The Missing Man Table in Town Hall is one of many. According the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 83,000 Americans remain missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Gulf Wars/other conflicts. Military veterans and active service members, often anonymously, place Missing Man Tables in military facilities or at a special occasion, such as a ball. The table at Town Hall will remain through the Memorial Day holiday, honoring the fallen and missing military service members.
A card is set at the table to explain the symbolic meaning behind the items on the table, as well as the empty chair. The card reads as follows:
“The table before you is a place of honor. It is set for one. The table is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POWs or MIAs, we call them ‘Brothers.’ They are unable to be with us this evening and so we remember them.
“The Table set for one is small – Symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors.
“The Tablecloth is white – Symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
“The single Red Rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting their return.
“The Red Ribbon tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing.
“The Candle, the candle is lit – Symbolizing the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit.
“A Slice of Lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.
“There is Salt upon the bread plate – Symbolic of the families’ tears as they wait.
“The Glass is inverted – They cannot toast with us this night.
“The Chair – the chair is empty. They are not here.
“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! – Until the day they come home.”