By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, November 11, 2005
POW/MIAs honored at Veterans' dinner
[Courtesy photo by Legion Chaplain John M. Holman]
HAMPTON -- Hamptons American Legion Post #35 recently held a Veterans Appreciation Dinner at the Legion Hall on High Street in Hampton.
Post Commander Ralph G. Fatello served as master of ceremonies, welcoming everyone to the event and providing a number of introductions.
Scores of Veterans and their guests enjoyed a delicious prime rib dinner, prepared and served by former Post Commander Joe Kutt and a kitchen crew that included his fellow Legionnaires.
Seated at the white-draped dinner tables — which were accented with orange pumpkins and other autumn-themed decorations — attendees enjoyed conversation with one another during both a social hour and the dinner itself.
Nearby, however, was a small round bistro-style table, sitting quietly before a backdrop of flags representing the five branches of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard). This table, too, was covered with a pristine white tablecloth.
Upon it sat a single place setting — silverware, an empty water glass turned upside down, a white dinner plate with a slice of lemon upon it, and some salt. The empty chair behind it was draped with the unmistakable black-and-white emblem of the POW/ MIA flag.
A tall white candle, its wick aflame, was positioned between a small American flag and a single rose placed in a white vase tied with a red ribbon. Throughout the evening the table sat in solemn silence, yet its presence spoke volumes.
The display was utilized for an official Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony, which is reserved to honor missing comrades-in-arms at events such as Post #35's Veterans Appreciation Dinner.
The ceremony calls attention to the fact that "the missing are with us, here in spirit," and serves as a reminder to all Americans to "never forget the brave men and women who answered our nation's call [to serve] and served the cause of freedom in a special way."
This special observance was coordinated and conducted by Post #35 Adjutant, John Barvenik, who explained the symbolism of the elements that made up the display.
The table is round, "to show our everlasting concern for our missing men." The tablecloth is white, "symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty."
The single red rose, displayed in a vase, "reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers."
The vase is tied with a red ribbon, "a symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing." The candle is lit, "signifying our undying commitment to ensure their prompt return."
The slice of lemon on the plate is "to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land." The salt symbolizes "the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers."
The water glass is inverted "to symbolize their inability to share this evening's toast." The single, empty chair speaks for itself. A Holy Bible is often included in such displays, to "represent the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God." And, an accompanying toast is made "to honor America's POW/ MIAs and to the success of our efforts to account for them," as well as "the never-ending hope of having all return home."
Also on display at Post #35's Veterans' Appreciation Dinner was another table (see photo above) upon which sat a WWI helmet that once belonged to the father of Post Chaplain, John Holman. The helmet was situated next to an old Royal typewriter with copy of an authentic letter dated 1917, from a WW I Veteran to his mother back in the States. Legion member Jim Cushman generated the idea for this display.
Before dinner, those in attendance sang "God Bless America," accompanied on the piano by Holman, who had presented a special Veterans' Day Invocation written by Lynn A. Davis. It read:
"Today we honor those who have defended our country and the principles under which we live. Freedom is the gift of our forefathers; the passage of that gift between generations has been left to the Veterans who have served our nation when called to duty. Serving is an honor that humbles the strongest among us.
"Each generation, must pay respect to that service and to those who have performed their duties — it is to them we owe the deepest debt of gratitude. They chose to be a part of history and to make history. They chose to be the leaders and the force that moves our freedom forward through time. They chose to defend that principal which has carried us for over 200 years.
"That choice, that service is what is honored today. Your duty is to take today and honor those who live among us that made the choice to serve. You are responsible for carrying on the history, the stories, and the valor of those that are your neighbors, your teachers or your friends. We say 'thanks' today to our Veterans."