We all clapped for the cadets and midshipmen graduating in the Class of 2009 and offered toasts with sparkling apple cider. I chuckled as I lifted my engraved wine glass and haled, “To the Academy!” numerous times. Indeed, our family has entered a new world.
Yet amidst the fanfare and celebration, there was a sobering spot in the room. It was the POW/MIA table. Each part of the table had symbolism. Previously I just thought it was an awkward table maybe even a silly joke but I couldn’t have been more wrong. When they described each item on the table, I had to choke back the tears. Being the mama of a Soldier and the cousin of an Army Chaplain in Afghanistan, I struggled to maintain my composure and not smear the three layers of mascara on my eyes.
This was the description of the table printed on the program for the All Academy Ball.
The POW/MIA table is a place of honor near the head table. It is set for one and is a way of symbolizing the fact that members of the military are missing. The table is set for one and is intentionally small symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner against his/her oppressors.
The tablecloth is white symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
The single rose in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones who kept the faith awaiting their return.
A red ribbon is tied prominently on the vase reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousand who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing.
A slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.
Salt upon the bread plate symbolic of the families’ tears as they wait.
The glass is inverted since they cannot toast with us that evening.
And finally, the chair is empty, they are not here.
When I approached the table, I felt a sadness pervade over my heart. We are so young on this journey of being parents of a Soldier, I am choosing not to go there too much emotionally lest I completely fall apart.
We have so much to be thankful for in this country and I was moved by this table. Here is a link to a facebook group supporting my cousin who is serving our country in Afghanistan. I know he’d appreciate your prayers and any other support you can offer.