American Legion Auxiliary - May 2013
PLANNING A POWERFUL POW/MIA REMEMBRANCE SERVICE LET US NEVER FORGET Today, there are still more than 83,000 American troops missing in action, according to the Department of Defense Prisoner of War-Missing Personnel Office. That includes some 73,681 from World War II; 7,947 from the Korean War; 126 during the Cold War; 1,657 from the Vietnam War; and six from Iraq and other conflicts. The American Legion Family is dedicated to ensuring that America's POW/MIAs be honored and recognized, not just memorialized. Legion efforts focus on the need to account as fully as possible for those still missing, alive or dead. An important way all Legion Family members create awareness and remembrance for this initiative is through conducting POW/MIA remembrance services at unit meetings and public events. Strong, united support by all Legion Family members is crucial to bringing all of our heroes home. GET READY... PLANNING AND PREPARATION Preparations for an event this solemn and sacred should not be left to chance or until the last minute, as every detail in this ceremony is important and symbolic. The best way to prepare for a successful POW/MIA remembrance ceremony is to do your homework. Visit www.ALAforVeterans.org/ Programs/National-Security to download a detailed how-to sheet that includes a materials checklist and a full version of the POW/MIA remembrance service script. A photo in the how-to sheet shows the proper placement of the table, chair, flag, rose, glass, and other significant pieces that make up the proper setting for this important ritual. In a remembrance service, the script is traditionally read by just one person - an American Legion Auxiliary member (usually the chaplain) or a Legionnaire, and the table is set before the meeting begins. The entire remembrance service, once presented, typically lasts 15 minutes. SET... GATHER SYMBOLIC ITEMS A ceremony is appropriate at a more formal event and involves a longer script and up to five participants who prepare the table as the script is read. In a remembrance service, the script is traditionally read by just one person, and the table is set before the meeting begins. The typical items required for a remembrance service: • small table covered with a white table cloth plate, fork, knife, spoon, and napkin set up on the table • glass (inverted) • chair placed at plate setting • vase with a single rose in it and a red ribbon tied onto the vase • slice of lemon on the plate and salt sprinkled onto the plate • white candle in a holder, lit at the beginning of the ceremony • POW/MIA flag draped over another chair in front of table American Flag on the table More table settings and symbolic items are used in a remembrance ceremony, as this ritual typically honors all five branches of the Armed Forces. KNOW! UNDERSTAND THE SYMBOLS The table is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors. The table cloth 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. 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 open arms of a grateful nation. The American flag reminds us that many U.S. servicemembers may never return and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom.
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