Coming out of a tradition that’s been around since the Vietnam War, this small table in the dining area is always set, but never occupied. The empty space is a symbol of Americans who are missing, and its presence is a reminder that they are with us here in spirit.
Every ceremony’s a little different. Here’s how I remembered it back home.
The table is round, to show that our concern for them is enduring.
The tablecloth on the table is white, to show the purity of their intent in responding to our country’s call to arms.
Inside the vase, the single red rose is a symbol of the life that belongs to each of the missing and signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure freedom for all of us. The red ribbon around it represents their love for our country, which inspired them to answer her call.
The Bible is a symbol of the faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country.
The black napkin is a symbol of the emptiness left by those missing in the hearts of families and friends.
The upturned wine glass is a reminder that those missing can no longer share a toast with us here today.
The slices of lemon on the plate is a reminder of the bitterness of their fate.
The salt on the plate represents the tears endured by those who are missing, and their families who seek closure.
A yellow ribbon is tied around the candle holder. It, and the yellow candle, symbolizes an everlasting hope. It represents hope that someday the missing will return to us.
For now, the chair is empty, to show that they are not here.
This ceremony is solemn. It always is, and it should be treated with the dignity it deserves. But as you take a moment to reflect and honor those who are missing, I would like to ask you to do one more thing.
Consider why these brave men and women answered the call in the first place.
Consider why they served, and what this means for you.
Do not render their sacrifice meaningless by wasting your life. Remember, but more importantly, live.