By: Sandra Thompson
On Saturday, September 9, over 450 individuals gathered at the Alabama Veterans Museum to honor and remember our heroes of 9/11 at the third annual Travis Manion Foundation 9/11 Heroes Run. Our third annual run was the biggest to date with over 330 runners signed up. We would like to thank race director Whitney Hollingsworth and all of the volunteers who came out to help; we certainly could not do this without everyone working together! Amber Loggins spoke of her brother Adam who was killed in Iraq, and as I looked out into the crowd, it was hard to find a dry eye. Senator Bill Holtzclaw read a very moving letter from the Travis Manion Foundation and asked for a moment of silence to reflect and remember that fateful day and all who were lost.
It is also time to remember another set of individuals, our Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA). The third Friday in September is set aside each year to honor and remember these heroes. According to the Department of Defense, (DOD) there are still over 80,000 individuals unaccounted for from the Vietnam War and past conflicts. The majority are from WWII, with a staggering 73,536. Until 1979, there was no day to honor these heroic individuals. The first “Missing Man Formation” was flown at Langley AFB, Virginia. National POW/MIA Recognition Day legislation was introduced in 1995, and ceremonies are now held throughout the nation. The Missing Man Table and Honor Ceremony is one of them, and this humble ceremony goes as follows:
As you entered the room, you may have noticed a special table; it is reserved to honor our missing men.
Set for six, the empty chairs represent Americans who were or are missing from each of the services – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard – and civilians, all with us in spirit. The table is round – to show our everlasting concern.
The cloth is white – symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve.
The single red rose reminds us of the lives of these Americans….and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers.
The red ribbon symbolizes our continued determination to account for them.
A slice of lemon reminds us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.
A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.
The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return – alive or dead.
The Bible represents the strength gained through faith in our country, founded as one nation under God, to sustain those lost from our midst.
The glass is inverted – to symbolize their inability to share a toast.
The chairs are empty – they are missing
Let us now raise our water glasses in a toast to honor America’s POW/MIAs, to the success of our efforts to account for them, and to the safety of all now serving our Nation!
We fly the POW/MIA flag to ensure that as Americans we remember our responsibility to stand behind those who serve our Nation, and do everything possible to account for those who do not return. Lest we forget! Vietnam Veterans of America, Post 511 will hold a Missing Man Ceremony at the Veterans Museum on September 15 at 11:00 a.m. Please join us in honoring and remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum