Marion County Veterans Services is hosting a ceremony this week to honor those who were held captive and returned, as well as those who remain missing.
This year’s ceremony will be held on Friday, September 16, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ocala/Marion County Veterans Memorial Park, which is located at 2601 E Fort King Street in Ocala. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
Since 1979, every president has issued an annual proclamation commemorating the third Friday in September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, approximately 81,600 Americans are missing – from the battlefields of World War II to recent conflicts. Around 41,000 of those missing Americans are presumed lost at sea.
Across the country, observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held on military installations and aboard ships, as well as in state capitals, schools, and veterans’ facilities.
Marion County Veterans Services holds this ceremony locally each year, including the traditional empty place setting on a separate table to honor our prisoners of war and missing comrades.
According to Marion County Veterans Services, careful preparations are made to ensure that the table setting and table of the POW/MIA is decorated with special significant symbols to help remember our brothers and sisters in arms:
- 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 red rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our country. 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, illuminating their way home, away from their captors and into 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 ensure our freedom.
For more information, please contact Marion County Veterans Services at 352-671-8422.